Exercise and Hypertension: Why Movement Matters
Did you know that most people with high blood pressure, or hypertension, don’t experience any symptoms?
If left untreated Hypertension can lead to heart attack, kidney failure and stroke, which is why it’s often referred to as a ‘silent killer’.
One of the most simple yet powerful ways to protect yourself is to get moving!
Here we explore the simple habits that can lower your blood pressure and make your heart happy.
What is hypertension? And am I at risk?
Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, is very common. It affects more than 1 in 3 Australian adults.
The good news? A healthy, active lifestyle can treat and prevent hypertension. There are lots of things you can do at home, and with our help, to support your heart health and reduce your risk.
What causes hypertension/high blood pressure?
There are various heart diseases and conditions that can arise due to poor heart health. One condition we see commonly at O-health is hypertension.
Hypertension, often referred to as high blood pressure, is often caused by the build-up of fatty deposits or the hardening of artery walls, restricting the flow of blood in your body’s blood vessels. This reduced blood flow can strain your heart, increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease and other medical problems.
Your overall heart health and blood pressure level can be influenced by lifestyle choices and environmental factors. Which means there are plenty of simple, practical things you can do to keep your heart in good health.
Get regular checks
If you are 45 years or older you should see your doctor for a Medicare-covered Heart Health Check. Regular heart health checks with your GP help you better understand your risk of a heart attack or stroke in the next five years. They also help you understand the risks you’re facing and how to manage them.
What you can do at home
Whilst seeing a professional is super important to manage your blood pressure, there are small habits that you can include in your everyday routine to help lower your blood pressure.
Regular physical activity is key. It’s one of the best things you can do for your overall health, especially your heart health. By making your heart work a little harder you can cut your risk of heart disease by a third – regardless of your age, gender, income or where you live. It might be walking, swimming, yoga, skipping, cycling or martial arts. Choose something you enjoy and you’ll be more likely to stick at it.
Here’s some guidance from the Heart Foundation on how to build regular physical activity into your life:
- Be active at least five days a week.
- Aim to do muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days a week.
- Break up long periods of sitting.
- Aim to accumulate 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily
- Balance and flexibility exercises most days of the week
- Strength exercises 2 to 3 days per week
- Break up long periods of sitting
Another way to lower your blood pressure is to reduce your intake of alcohol, salt and saturated fat.
Smoking is also a risk factor. There’s plenty of support to help you quit. The Quitline is a great place to access help and information on 13 78 48.
How to get started
The Heart Foundation shares the following tips on getting more physical activity into your day.
- Start small – Begin by blocking out some time in your day, even if it is just for a short stroll. You can then build up gradually. Remember that every step counts.
- Set realistic goals and be kind to yourself - If you are new to exercise, don’t be hard on yourself. Try to create a plan, starting with 10 minutes a day. Slowly building up may help you feel motivated to continue.
- Get more active in your neighbourhood - Go for a walk around your suburb. and you’ll probably see lots of places and opportunities to be more active. You could also take public transport instead of driving your car.
- Mix up your activities – To keep activities enjoyable, add some variety or try something new like tai chi or a dance class. You can also build activity into your social outings, such as going for a walk with a friend.
- Be prepared - Make sure you dress for the weather and be sun smart. You can wear an activity tracker like a Fitbit to monitor progress and help you stay motivated.
- Get active with friends and family - Having a buddy is another great way to stay motivated with physical activity.
How we can help you
Our Exercise Physiologists (EPs) can work with you to help manage and reduce high blood pressure. We develop a personalised plan which offers exercise-based therapy and lifestyle coaching tailored to your lifestyle and conditions.
O-health also offers blood pressure checks. We can cover this in your consultation as we learn about your goals, history and lifestyle.
The first step is to book that Heart Health check-up with your GP. Don’t let it fall to the bottom of your to-do list. Your health is important and should be a priority. We know it can be overwhelming so we’re here to support you and keep you on track!
You can book an appointment with one of our friendly Exercise Physiologists here.