Walking is great for overall health, but did you know that walking can help to lower your blood pressure? That’s in addition to being a great, low-intensity form of exercise that burns calories and keeps you limber. Read on for more info on how to lower blood pressure by walking.
What is High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure (sometimes called hypertension or HBP) is a condition where your blood is consistently flowing too forcefully through your blood vessels. The heart needs to create a certain amount of pressure to push blood through the blood vessels to all parts of the body. When this pressure is consistently too high, your heart and blood vessels are forced to work harder while actually losing productivity. Essentially, if you have high blood pressure, your heart is working too hard and not getting enough done.
High blood pressure is a very common condition affecting nearly half of American adults. There are many reasons you might have high blood pressure. Genetics, the food you eat, your age, and your activity level are all factors that contribute to blood pressure readings. Uncontrolled high blood pressure has been directly linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke. This doesn’t mean a high blood pressure diagnosis is a death sentence. It’s more like a warning. If you get your blood pressure under control and keep it there, your risks for serious complications are dramatically reduced.
Walking is a great addition, as part of a healthier lifestyle, to lower blood pressure and get healthier!
Important note: If you suffer from high blood pressure or any serious health condition, make sure to consult your doctor before starting a walking routine. Your doctor can help determine how active you can get and what precautions you need to take. This blog post is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease – only a doctor can do that!
High Blood Pressure Facts
Know Your Numbers
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you may have been told that a healthy blood pressure reading is around 120/80. Most people don’t actually know what those numbers mean, however. Your blood pressure reading is composed of two numbers. The top number (systolic pressure) represents the force of your blood as it pumps from the heart. The bottom number (diastolic pressure) is the pressure that is generated between heartbeats. The only true way to know you are keeping your blood pressure under control is to have it checked regularly.
Having your blood pressure checked is usually painless! Automatic blood pressure monitors involve slipping an inflatable sleeve around your lower or upper arm, which inflates and then gradually deflates – measuring your pressure along the way. It’s easy and only takes a minute or two.
These guidelines from the American Heart Association will help you understand your blood pressure reading.
- Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80
- Elevated blood pressure occurs when your systolic pressure is between 120-129, but the bottom number is still below 80.
- Stage 1 hypertension is a reading with systolic pressure between 130-139 and diastolic pressure between 80-89.
- Stage 2 hypertension is a reading with systolic pressure above 140 and/or a diastolic pressure above 90.
- Hypertensive crisis occurs when your systolic pressure rises above 180 and/or your diastolic pressure is higher than 120. This is a dangerous condition, so if you experience hypertensive crisis it is important to contact your doctor immediately.
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure
Many people don’t know they have high blood pressure until they get checked during a routine visit with the doctor. In fact, the instance of high blood pressure without symptoms is so common that hypertension is referred to as “the silent killer.” It is important to remember that most patients do not notice symptoms of high blood pressure.
However, when your blood pressure rises, you may sometimes experience the following symptoms:
- Severe headache
- Labored breathing
- Pounding in your chest, ears, or neck
- Chest pain
How Walking Can Help Lower Your Blood Pressure
If you were recently diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor may have recommended you begin taking medication, make changes to your diet, and begin exercising regularly. Regular exercise strengthens your heart and helps you control your weight. A stronger heart can pump more blood more easily, which can lower your blood pressure. Exercise can even help you prevent the natural rise in blood pressure associated with aging.
The idea of beginning a complicated and difficult exercise regimen may fill you with dread. Luckily, you don’t need to become an award-winning athlete to improve your health. Any activity that increases your heart rate can help keep your blood pressure under control. Walking is a great form of aerobic exercise for beginners since it’s a routine you can begin right away with no training and little need for extra supplies.
How Does Exercise Help?
Exercising regularly doesn’t only make your body strong. It strengthens your heart as well. As your heart grows stronger, it doesn’t have to work as hard to push blood throughout the body. Exercise also helps keep your weight under control which helps lower your blood pressure as well.
It is important to remember that these effects do not occur overnight. It may take several weeks of daily exercise before you see the results. However, this doesn’t mean beginning exercise is not effective. As your body grows stronger, exercise works like medicine for your blood pressure. As long as you keep up your routine, daily exercise will help you keep your blood pressure under control.
How Much is Enough?
The idea that walking can help you control your blood pressure may have you thinking there must be a catch. If it was easy to lower your blood pressure doing what you do every day, then why do so many people have trouble lowering their blood pressure? Strolling through the parking lot at the grocery store may not be enough to get your heart rate up and improve your blood pressure. In order to really benefit from exercise, you need to reach a “moderate-intensity” exercise level will elevate your heart rate and increase your breathing rate. Here’s a guide from Pacer on how fast you should walk for fitness!
The CDC and other organizations recommend getting 30 minutes of moderate activity almost every day. However, this doesn’t mean you should immediately aim for 30 minutes a day if you’ve been inactive for a while. For additional benefits, the CDC recommends an extra 30 minutes daily (1 hour a day, 5 days a week or 300 minutes per week). How much you should be walking depends on your fitness level, general health and other factors.
- Your breathing rate should increase during exercise.
- Your heart will beat faster, but not cause discomfort.
- You’d be able to speak in short sentences but not comfortably sustain a long conversation.
- You’re able to talk, but not sing the words to a song
- You can measure your heart rate with certain fitness trackers
It’s extremely important to avoid overexertion. If you experience pain, gasping for breath, irregular heartbeat, or dizziness, slow down and see a doctor if symptoms persist.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure is related to many dangerous health conditions. However, when you monitor your blood pressure and keep it under control, you can reduce your risk and improve your health.
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