Hi. This is Dr Louella saying sorry for the late post. It was a hectic weekend! But we need to continue our discussion on prevention and treatment of hypertension. Previously we talked about how your diet can help lower blood pressure so now we go on to weight loss and exercise.
Yes, I know you’ve heard a lot on these topics before, but not like this…
Now weight loss and exercise are not the same thing.There are so many health benefits to exercise that everybody needs to exercise (including the skinny, the fat and the in-between; toddlers and grandmas) but not everyone needs to lose weight. I have frequently heard the retort, “What you have to lose?” when people hear that I exercise.
But I love to provoke my elderly patients by asking them if they’re exercising because they should be. It would help unstiffen those joints, reduce their pains, strengthen their bodies and lift their depression among other things.
Now if there is one thing you need to know about exercise is that it makes you live longer. Exercise increases your longevity! Did you know that? It’s been proven!.
It has been also been found to lower blood pressure about 1 to 3 months after engaging in it, as long as the person continues to exercise. It strengthens heart muscle reducing the force needed to pump the blood around the body.
Exercise is recommended for everyone for the prevention and/or control of hypertension. 30 min of moderate exercise, 5 days a week is the basic requirement for health or, if its vigorous exercise, 15 min for 5 days will do.
Now don’t get scared. It isn’t as hard as you think. Get yourself a pair of sneakers and pants, as well as a safe environment, and you’re almost there. I tell my patients these things because I am saddened to find out that many of them don’t exercise even though they know better.
I was a gym freak once, but not anymore. I’m well aware that not everyone can toil away for hours at the gym… timing, cost, distance, shyness, whatever, prohibits that. But that does not rule you out.
Remember, anything aerobic will do – brisk walking, jumping, jogging, dancing, aerobics, active sports, swimming, cycling, skipping, climbing etc. You can use a video, gym instructor, exercise equipment, a friend or do it by yourself. You can be in the house, around the house, on the street, in the park, in the gym.
Weight training is not as good for blood pressure as it may increase it. But your housework (scrubbing, mowing the lawn etc) may count, once it increases your heart rate and breathing. It has been found that physically strenuous jobs are associated with lower life expectancy because of the stress associated with them.
If you’re new to exercise 5 min may be enough and you gradually work your way up. Don’t try to overdo it. The body has to get accustomed. If you injure yourself you’ll never want to go back. Warm up first before you stretch. Never stretch a cold body but always stretch those muscles after use. Please drink sufficient water. Hydration is important.
Now, I’m going to burst some people’s bubble here. I’m going to make it clear that exercise alone is not enough. You cannot lead a sedentary lifestyle, sit for most of the day, and think that 30 min of exercise is going to be sufficient to counteract that.
There is something called non-exercise physical activity that we must also engage in. This simply means being active throughout the day, doing the little stuff. Excessive sitting is unhealthy. If you reduce it to less than 3 hours a day it can help extend your lifespan by 2 years.
A generally active daily life is associated with cardiovascular health and longevity in older adults. So get the old people moving and get yourself active: stairs instead of elevator, walk instead of drive, manual tools instead of automatic, do it yourself instead of outsourcing, walk the dog, do the dishes, wash on hand and so on… They all add up.
Our populations are getting fatter so hypertension is rising. Remember obesity is linked to hypertension. So many of us need to lose the weight, for this and other reasons (helps lower cholesterol, blood sugar etc).
No one said it would be easy but it will be worth it. You know the drill. Weight loss entails diet and exercise. Even when you take weight loss pills you need some kind of diet.
You don’t need to get down to your ideal weight, a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9. That would be lovely, but for some it is extremely difficult. It is said that losing as little as 5% of your weight may make a difference to your blood pressure, 10% is better and more even better, if you are obese.
What I discussed previously with regards hypertension was a healthy diet but not a weight loss diet. I will mention the main features of this.
You should know by now that you must eat less (or take in less calories) in order to lose weight. Watch the content of the food: less sugar, flour and fatty/oily items. Decrease your portion size, but I stress, gradually. You don’t want to feel hungry. Use more protein, especially beans and peas, and your veggies. Increase your number of meals to 4-6 a day. You use calories more efficiently this way.
Make your dietary changes healthy and palatable and never entertain long periods without meals. In this way the diet will be easier for you to incorporate into your lifestyle and not be just a passing fad. You would not continue to lose weight indefinitely but eventually settle.
While the majority of weight loss would be achieved through the diet, exercise is also very important as it increases your calorie output, increases the efficiency with which you lose the weight, tones the body, etc. I normally explain to my patients that 30 min of exercise, 5 days a week is the basic requirement for health so if you’re looking to lose weight you may need to go beyond that.
So I have told you about exercise and the weight reducing diet, why they are needed and how to achieve them to prevent/control hypertension. But it’s been another long day. I’m tired. But I really enjoy doing these blogs so come back for more when we talk a bit about drug treatment of hypertension. Later! Dr. Louella is out.