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high blood pressure Physical activity and


HOW DOES


IF YOU HAVE HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE? n Regular physical activity can lower systolic pressure by 10mmHg, and diastolic by 8mmHg.


n The biggest reduction is usually seen within the first 10 weeks of activity. But you need to remain active to maintain the benefits.


n Increasing your level of activity helps speed up your metabolism. This helps you to burn more calories and, as long as you don’t eat more to compensate for this, you will lose weight.


n Physical activity helps reduce other risk factors for heart disease such as high blood cholesterol levels, developing diabetes and the risk of having a stroke.


n Physical activity, along with a healthy diet, helps reduce stress and improves your overall feeling of well-being.


STAYING SAFE n It is important to have your blood pressure checked before starting any activity. If your blood pressure is normal you should have it checked at least every five years, if it is raised you should have it checked at least once a year.


n It is safe to exercise with high blood pressure unless it is very high and your GP will advise you about this when you have your blood pressure checked.


n If you do not know how much physical activity you can do safely or you have other medical problems such as arthritis, ask your GP or practice nurse for advice.


n Avoid ‘high intensity resistance training’, for example WHAT TYPE OF ACTIVITY IS BEST?


While stamina-based activity is particularly important for high blood pressure, you also need to include some strength and flexibility-based activity to get the best health gains. Stamina-type activities: Walking, swimming, cycling, dancing, tennis and housework (washing floors or windows) Strength-type activities: Walking uphill, climbing stairs, gardening (eg. mowing) and housework. Flexibility-type activities: Dancing, yoga, T’ai Chi, Pilates and gardening.


Tips on increasing your activity level n Walking is an ideal activity as it’s free and easy to do anywhere. Perhaps take a dog for a walk to make it more interesting or use a pedometer to count your steps.


n Look for opportunities to be active during your whole day. For example park at the far end of the car park, or walk one stop further to catch the bus, and take 10 minutes out of your lunch break to go for a walk.


n Try using the stairs instead of the escalator. If you do use the escalator start by walking part of the way up and progress to walking up the whole way.


n Choose activities that you enjoy doing. Involve your friends and family to make your activities fun, sociable and enjoyable.


DOES PHYSICAL HYSICAL ACTIVITY HELP HELP lifting heavy weights.


n Make sure you don’t hold your breath, especially if you are lifting anything heavy such as suitcases, as this temporarily increases your blood pressure and puts additional strain on your heart.


n Beta-blockers reduce your heart rate so when exercising don’t use your heart rate as a way of telling how hard you are working, or when to slow down. Instead use perceived exertion. Ask a fitness professional for more information.


n It is important to make sure you take your medication so your blood pressure is well maintained.


If you get any of the following problems, stop exercising and get medical advice from your GP or by contacting NHS Direct (see box below): n Discomfort in your chest or upper body brought on by physical activity


n Uncomfortable or severe breathlessness during your activity n Dizziness or nausea on exertion n Fainting during or just after doing physical activity n Palpitations (a very fast or irregular heart beat) during activity.


FOR MORE INFORMATION


n British Heart Foundation 0300 330 3311 or www.bhf.org.uk n Blood Pressure Association 0845 241 0989 or www.bpassoc.org.uk


n NHS Direct 0845 4647 or www.nhsdirect.co.uk HOW MUCH AND HOW OFTEN?


Frequency Your main aim is to build up to 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity on 5 or more days of the week. If this seems too much to start with, try starting with 3 x 10 minute walks spread throughout the day and work towards 2 x 15 minute walks and then 30 continuous minutes. One goal is to try and increase your activity by 2 minutes each day.


Intensity Moderate intensity means breathing harder and getting warmer than normal. It does not need to be hard. You should be able to talk and be active at the same time.


Advice Whatever your chosen activity, it should be performed at a gentle intensity which gradually increases until after about 10 minutes you have reached the level you can maintain for your chosen period of activity. This gets the blood flowing to your muscles and allows your heart rate to increase gradually. When you are nearing the end of your activity you should also slowly decrease the level of activity over 5-10 minutes to allow your heart rate to slow down gradually.


Remember Set yourself realistic goals and don’t worry if you miss one day. Just make sure that the next day you pick up where you left off.


The information contained in this article is intended as general guidance and information only and should not be relied upon as a basis for planning individual medical care or as a substitute for specialist medical advice in each individual case. To the extent permissible by law, the publisher, editors and contributors accept no liability for any loss, injury or damage howsoever incurred (including negligence) as a consequence, whether directly or indirectly, of the use by any person of the contents of this article.


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