Lower Your Blood Pressure Week 2: Get Moving
It’s Week Two of my four-week challenge to begin lowering your blood pressure. And now that you’re on my eating plan to control high blood pressure, let’s take it a step further—literally—and add exercise to your regimen.
But before you make the same face that you probably had last week when you read my dietary recommendation for seaweed, you need to know that I don’t believe in exercise that’s strenuous or painful. I’ve learned from my patients that a more moderate approach not only gets the same results, but is much easier to maintain.
Exercise is one of my favorite healthy blood pressure therapies because of three specific benefits it has on cardiovascular health. First, increased blood flow during exercise dilates the tiny blood vessels known as capillaries, encouraging better circulation. This effect persists long after you’ve stopped being active, which in turn reduces the resistance in arteries. Second, regular exercise can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Finally, exercise helps burn glucose and improves insulin sensitivity. This last point is crucially important because high insulin levels signal the body to produce inflammatory chemicals that constrict blood vessels, promote clotting, and stoke the development of plaque. Independently, each of those responses can raise your blood pressure—not to mention your risk of heart attack and stroke.
The following types of activity make up a well-rounded exercise program. Although I don’t believe that any one type is best (the best kind of exercise is the kind you’ll stick with), I do encourage you to do all of them because their benefits build on each other.
Aerobic activity. This type of activity raises your heart rate, causes blood vessels to dilate, and increases oxygen levels in the blood. Specific activities include walking, bicycling, dancing, and swimming. Aim for 20–30 minutes at least three days a week.
Strength training. This type of exercise—which you can do at a gym or at home with dumbbells or simple household products like canned food or gallon jugs filled with water or sand—helps you build strength and muscle. When your muscles are stronger, your body can do virtually everything with less effort, and that includes your heart. Do strength training every other day at most. Your body needs at least 48 hours of rest between workouts. Added bonus: Resistance training has also been shown to be effective in reducing cholesterol!
Flexibility exercises. These allow you to move with ease and to more fully participate in other forms of exercise. Correct technique is important. Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds—do not bounce, do not hold your breath, and do not stretch so far that you feel pain. The most effective stretching warms up and cools down the same muscles used during exercise. Try side and neck stretches, shoulder rolls, half rolls, knee bends, and calf, hamstring, and inner-thigh stretches. Flexibility exercises also help reduce stress, which is also essential for healthy blood pressure. I’ll talk more about that in a couple weeks.
Now, let’s get moving!
For more information on lowering your blood pressure, visit www.drsinatra.com.
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Dr. Stephen Sinatra is a highly respected and sought-after cardiologist and nutritionist with more than 30 years of clinical practice, research, and study. His integrative approach to heart health focuses on reducing inflammation in the body and maximizing the heart's ability to produce and use energy. More About Dr. Sinatra
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