Exercise Reduces High Blood Pressure and Prehypertension
Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update No. 36 (January 5, 2017)
with Dr. James Meschino
Research Topic: Exercise Reduces High Blood Pressure and Prehypertension
Source: The Journal of the American Heart Association (2013) and the 68th Annual Conference of the Cardiological Society of India (December 2016)
The research article I’m reviewing today was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association on February 1, 2013. The study reviewed all the available clinical trials that examined the effect of exercise on blood pressure. The researchers included 93 human clinical trials, involving over 5,000 total patients (3401 in the exercise groups and 1822 in the control groups who did not exercise).The data clearly shows that exercise reduces blood pressure, namely both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. It also showed that blood pressure reductions are greater for those who already have high blood pressure, but also helpful in lowering blood pressure in people who are on the cusp of having high blood pressure – individuals diagnosed with prehypertension.
High blood pressure or hypertension is defined as resting blood pressure at or above 140 over 90, with 140 being your systolic blood pressure and 90 being your diastolic blood pressure. The systolic pressure is a measure of how hard your heart is contracting with each beat, and the diastolic pressure is a measure of how much resistance there is to the blood flow from your arteries – the more constricted your arteries, the more resistance there is to blood flow and the higher the diastolic pressure will be. Even though blood pressure goes up during exercise itself, once the exercise is over, your blood pressure actually goes down to a level that is lower than it was before you exercised. This is because your circulating adrenaline levels decline, your nervous system activity is calmer, and your blood vessels become conditioned to secrete more nitric oxide, which relaxes your arteries – lowering your diastolic pressure, and in turn, your systolic pressure.
Overall, endurance exercise appears to produce the best results. This is one reason why the American College of Sports Medicine recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic endurance exercise, five days per week. Combining endurance exercise with resistance training is also very effective. The trick is to get your heart rate into the aerobic training zone while doing endurance exercise. To do this simply subtract your age from 220. This will give you your estimated maximal attainable heart rate. Then take that number and multiply it by .55, which will give you the lower limit of your aerobic training zone. So, if you are 40 years old, 220 minus 40=180. 180 times .55 = 99. So at 99 heart beats per minute, you would enter the aerobic training zone. The upper limit of the zone is your maximal attainable heart rate multiplied by .85 (or 85% of your maximal attainable heart rate). So, in our 40-year-old scenario, it would be 180 times or .85, which equals 153 heart beats per minute. Thus, for a 40-year-old, the aerobic training zone that helps regulate blood pressure and burns fat very effectively is between 99 and 153 heartbeats per minute. You can always find a rough mid-point of your aerobic training zone by subtracting your age from 180.
Knowing exercise helps to regulate blood pressure is important because the data suggests that the prevalence of high blood pressure varies with ethnicity and gender, but lies between 25% and 43% in the US population. I also wanted to mention that a modest effect on lowering blood pressure was recently seen in a study of prehypertensive patients who followed a Hatha Yoga program for one hour per day for three consecutive months. Prehypertension is defined as a systolic blood pressure between 120 and 139, or a diastolic blood pressure of 80 to 89. This study was presented at the 68th Annual Conference of the Cardiological Society of India in December, 2016.
I really think it’s important to make regular exercise a part of your wellness gameplan. It provides a multitude of health benefits, including blood pressure regulation. Studies show that even a small 2mmHg decrease in diastolic blood pressure has a potential of decreasing coronary heart disease by six percen,t and transient ischaemic attack and stroke by 15 percent. So, keep your exercise routine going. It pays big dividens.
I’ve included a link to the studies in the text below.
- Cornelissen VA, Smart NA. Exercise Training for Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of the American Heart Association. 2013. Vol 2, issue 1. http://jaha.ahajournals.org/content/2/1/e004473
- Yoga: http://www.worldhealth.net/news/daily-yoga-lowers-blood-pressure
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