What is hypertension?

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension is when your blood pressure reading is 140/90mmHg or higher. Worryingly, one in four adults are thought to have hypertension with many people not even knowing they have it. Usually this silent condition, doesn’t come with any symptoms but if left untreated can increase your risk of serious incidents such as a heart attack or a stroke.

There are many ways to better manage your blood pressure, increasing your physical activity levels being one of best. Some people worry that becoming more active could increase your risk of hypertension but as a rule, the opposite is true. Think of your heart like a pump and your blood vessels like pipes; exercise makes your pump much stronger and efficient and therefore reduces the pressure required from the pipes, to do the same amount of work.

What exercise should I do?

Most exercise is beneficial to your health. However, if you are just starting to become more active and you currently have hypertension, it is also wise to start slow and gently build up from there.

Examples include:

Taking brisk walks – these can be broken down into 10 minute bouts. Start doing 1 x 10 mins per day and then as you start to feel fitter, make this 2 x 10 mins per day and so on. Your long-term aim is complete 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, across 7 days.

Swimming – this is an excellent activity and uses both the upper and lower body. Not only will this improve your cardiovascular fitness and help to manage your blood pressure, it will also improve muscle strength which is important to maintain as we get older.

Cycling – dust of your bike, bring it out of the garage and get out in the fresh air! This will improve not only your physical health but some studies have shown how outdoor exercise improves your mental wellbeing too.

GP Exercise referral programmes – many towns offer specialist GP exercise referral programmes with trained instructors to prescribe exercise suitable to your needs. This doesn’t always have to include the gym but also might also include walking programmes and health improvement classes.

And finally,

Many studies have shown the positive impact that physical activity has on the management of hypertension. If you are over 40 and haven’t had your blood pressure checked in a while, then it is worth having it checked out by your local pharmacist or GP as a precaution.