This week we will be discussing hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure. There are many reasons why we develop hypertension. Smoking, obesity and a lack of exercise are part of a growing list of risk factors that may lead to the development of this serious medical condition.
Often referred to as the silent killer if left unchecked you are at risk of developing atherosclerosis (heart disease). This greatly increases your chances of having a heart attack and/or stroke. This article will uniquely look at what NOT to do if you currently have or suspect you have hypertension.
An article published by Dr. Richard J. Hodes Director of the National Institute on Aging stated that the risk of stroke and heart attack steeply increases after the age of 65. This accounts for 40% of deaths among males and females in this demographic. Whether you like it or not we are all getting older and you should take certain precautions to decrease your risk.
Before we get into what not to do, let’s quickly discuss what you should be doing. Having yearly checkups with a full spectrum blood analysis is a must. No matter how good you may feel, it is impossible to determine if you have underlying medical conditions unless you have blood taken.
By testing certain markers such as LDL (low density lipoprotein), resting blood pressure, waist to hip ratio and your body’s weight, you will be able to make a more informed decision concerning your current health status.
Now let’s look at what not to do:
1. DO NOT IGNORE WHAT HEALTH PROFESSIONALS TELL YOU.
This is a major issue in the health community that needs to be addressed. Whether you are given a medication for hypertension or have been given an exercise prescription it is important that you understand and follow what is being said. Too many times I have seen clients modify, or worse stop their medications without their doctor’s consent.
I’m not a pill pusher but if you have been prescribed a medication such as a beta-blocker that helps stabilize blood pressure, the last thing you want to do is to stop it in the middle of your therapy. If you feel that you need to modify your schedule or you believe you can manage your health without medication, then talk to your doctor first before making changes or seeking alternative therapies.
2. DO NOT TRAIN INTENSLY
I know I’m going to get some emails about this one. I have a list of 100 reasons why intense training is beneficial. However lifting heavy weights or performing intense cardiovascular exercise such interval training with a client that has uncontrolled hypertension is not on this list.
Intense training of any kind puts a tremendous amount of stress onto the cardiovascular system (your heart and lungs) and puts your body into an anaerobic state. This simply means the body must use energy without the presence of oxygen.
Why is this dangerous? If your body is starved for oxygen then your heart will try to compensate but speeding up to get more oxygen and nutrients to your working muscles. For a healthy heart this is an excellent way to increase caloric expenditure and put on lean muscle. For a hypertensive client this puts undue stress onto the heart and may cause a myocardial infarction (heart attack).
Cardiovascular excises such as swimming, jogging, hiking and circuit training using light weights using slow progressions have been shown to improve cardiovascular health and lower your risk factors.
3. DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH
When you are stressed we tend to hold our breath. This is a part of our natural survival system called the fight or flight response. If you hold your breath or breathe incorrectly, you put more pressure onto your arterial wall which in turn increases your blood pressure.
If you are faced with a stressful situation listen to your breathing. If you find yourself breathing through your mouth or holding your breathing sporadically take a moment to relax. Try taking a deep breath through your nose and gently breathe out through your mouth. This is known as diaphragmatic breathing and is a very effective natural way to lower anxiety and decrease stress on the heart and the body in general.
This rhythmic type of breathing is even more important when applying to exercise. Holding your breath during exercise increases intrinsic or internal pressure on the body. If you breathe out on exertion or the hardest part of the movement you take negative pressure off the heart and actually increase the body’s ability to produce movement.
To give you an example, if you are performing a bicep curl you need to breathe out through the mouth on the way up which is the hard part of the exercise. On the way down breathe in through the nose, which is the easier part of the exercise.
Heart disease is the number 1 killer of men and women in North America. Finding out what you should NOT do is an important first step to help you lead a healthy stress free life.
Do you know anyone affected by high blood pressure or hypertension? Feel free to share this article with them so it can help with what not to do. Stay tuned for more information on the exercises to avoid if you have hypertension.