Coping with Hypertension

Dear Dr. Mo: How to cope with high blood pressure, walking or resting?

Dear reader: First of all, you have a high blood pressure or Hypertension, if you have a sustained elevation of resting systolic reading of at least 140 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury) or a diastolic reading of at least 90 mm Hg, or both.

Swimming could help to reduce high blood pressure

The top number in your blood pressure reading is the systolic pressure. It reflects the amount of pressure in your arteries when your heart pumps – it is generated by the heart as a pump and the larger its output, the higher the systolic pressure.

The bottom number is the diastolic pressure. It is the measure of the pressure in the arterial tree in between heartbeats, when the heart is relaxing and it depends on the total peripheral resistance to the blood going out of the arteries into the veins and back to the heart.

High blood pressure is a common condition in which the force the blood exerts against your artery walls is high enough to eventually cause health problems, such as heart disease. Heart has to work harder and harder as blood pressure rises above normal limits and over time, this weakens the heart. It also injures the arteries, which then become susceptible to plaque formation and atherosclerosis in them. At times, high blood pressure may rupture the artery leading to bleeding and strokes.

Blood pressure measurement is one of the most important measurements for any doctor to take in order to determine your health status. Many people have elevated blood pressure, which increases as we age or develop certain health conditions. The trouble is, that if left unchecked, our bodies quickly adapt to elevated values as we go about our daily lives unaware of a serious health problem slowly evolving inside of us – until a big symptom occurs – a heart attack, a stroke, a kidney failure, eye sight problem or internal bleeding.Undiagnosed and untreated elevated blood pressure is among the biggest and most serious threats to our health, both short and long term.

Ways to cope

Early on, lifestyle modifications can do wonders in keeping the blood pressure within normal range, without any medication.

Among those is the answer to your question – exercise coupled with weight loss (if required) is among the first things to do in controlling Hypertension. Walking is a good idea, but any moderate exercise will do. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day – it will help to lower your blood pressure and it will help to keep your weight under control.

One research done at the University in Tennessee-Knoxville, USA wanted to examine the potential efficacy of regular swimming for lowering the blood pressure and it had concluded that swimming indeed did reduce arterial blood pressure at rest in people with hypertension. I am mentioning this because swimming can be a very good alternative to land-based exercise particularly for patients with obesity, asthma or orthopedic injuries.

Other important lifestyle remedies include:

Eating a healthy diet with increased fruits and vegetables, decreased salt and limited alcohol intake; this also means reducing the saturated and total fat content of your diet. Individuals age 51 or older and/or those with hypertension, chronic kidney disease or diabetes should aim for 1,5 g of salt a day; other healthy individuals should aim for max 2,3 g a day or less.

Quit smoking immediately – smoking fast-tracks the process of turning your arteries into hard and brittle pipes, which then easily rupture, clog and elevate blood pressure causing many varieties of heart and brain disease. Ask your physician to help you quit.

Manage stress – reduce it as much as possible. Try to take deep, slow breaths for 5 minutes several times a day, to help you relax. Also, get enough of sleep.

If blood pressure is initially high (above 160/100 mm Hg) or unresponsive to lifestyle modifications, your doctor will prescribe you some antihypertensive drugs based on your specific case. Follow these regimes strictly, regularly measure your blood pressure and keep up with a healthy life style and most likely your hypertension will be under control.

Yours in health,

Dr. Mo