Besides the right diet and medications, exercise is one of the best ways to lower your blood pressure. Working out also boosts the effectiveness of blood pressure medication if you’re already being treated for hypertension. You don’t have to be an athlete, either.
Start slowly to prevent injuries. Start with five to 15 minutes of exercise you enjoy, such as walking around the block or on a treadmill. You can gradually make your workouts longer and more challenging.
Do something that’s moderate in intensity like brisk walking for at least 30 minutes a day, five or more days a week. That may be enough to keep you off medications or help them work better. Exercise can lower your blood pressure by as much as five to 15 points. Gradually make your workouts more intense to keep lowering your blood pressure to safer levels. Doing aerobic exercise (“cardio”) is also good for your blood pressure and swimming is a gentle way to do it. Go for 30 minutes, or work up to that amount if you are capable.
Strength training should be part of your routine. You can use weights, weight machines, exercise bands, or your own body weight by doing abdominal crunches or curl-ups. You will lose body fat, boost muscle mass, and raise your metabolic rate. Losing as little as 10 pounds can lower or help prevent high blood pressure.
If you’re new to exercise, remember to pace yourself. Select a low- to moderate-intensity exercise such as gentle forms of yoga, gardening, or any other activity that you can do at a moderate pace. Gradually increase the intensity and duration of exercise as you become fitter, to help maintain your lowered blood pressure.
Also make exercise convenient.
Commit to making exercise part of your schedule. Find a time that works for you. You can work-out while the kids are at soccer practice, before or after work, or even during your lunch break. If it’s hard to get out of the house, consider getting some workout apps or DVDs, a yoga mat, and hand-held weights you can use at home.
Do mini workouts
Add 10-minute mini-workouts, and do these throughout your busy day. For example, you can jog in place or do calisthenics for 10 minutes. Three 10-minute mini-workouts equal 30 minutes of daily exercise in little bits of time you won’t miss.
Set up a home gym
Pick items that fit in with what you want to do: a step bench, jump rope, fit ball, exercise bands or tubes, and weights, for example. You can store them in a closet when you’re not using them. If you have more space and a bigger budget, consider getting a treadmill or stationary bike
Some heart medications such as beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers can slow your heart rate. Talk to your doctor and ask what your target heart-rate zone should be during exercise if you take medications.
You can also lower your systolic blood pressure (the top number) by switching to the DASH diet. The DASH diet is based on 2,000 calories a day. It’s rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. It’s also low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and total fat. According to studies, adopting a DASH diet can reduce systolic blood pressure by eight to 14 points. For those over age 50, a systolic blood pressure higher than 140 is a greater risk factor for heart disease than the diastolic blood pressure (lower number).
If you’re overweight, losing ten pounds can help reduce or prevent high blood pressure. To lose weight, take in fewer calories than you use each day. Ask your doctor or a registered dietitian how many calories you need daily for weight loss. Exercise helps you burn even more calories.
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