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  • Writer's pictureTerry Miller

Exercise -- The Most Effective Non-Pill

I have watched a few documentaries about pharmaceuticals. A new one came out this last year on Netflix that talks about Adderall. The thing that we can all agree on, for those who think for themselves, is that we have been trained and taught that if you have something wrong with your brain or your body that there is a pill for that. There are pills for the side effects of pills, but that is another topic. Today’s topic is high blood pressure.

Hypertension. There are pills for that. Diuretics. Beta blockers. ACE inhibitors. Calcium Channel blockers and a host of others. You have probably seen their commercials on TV. They all come with side effects. According to the new guidelines put out by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association, 130/80 is high. It doubles your risk of a cardiac episode. You and your doctor must be the ones to make the informed decision on how to control your blood pressure. Please be informed. It is your body. I guarantee that you care more than your doctor, no matter how great a person they are.

Exercise is not a magic bullet, but it has been proven over and over again to reduce blood pressure. I just read a study about how dancing may be the best exercise for mental decline, but what about high blood pressure? Doesn’t exercise raise your blood pressure? During exercise yes, and then the benefit comes. It is thought that the demand put on the circulatory system does a few wonderful things. It creates less vascular resistance, it improves circulatory function, it causes vasodilation (dilatation of blood vessels, which would create less resistance in the blood vessels and therefore lower the blood pressure), and exercise releases a cascade of chemicals that bathe the whole body in a cellular improvement campaign.

A recent meta-analysis supports this chronic role being partially explained by a decreased systemic vascular resistance in which the autonomic nervous system and renin-angiotensin system (a hormone system that helps normalize long-term blood pressure and blood volume in the body) are most likely the underlying regulatory mechanisms (Cornelissen and Fagard, 2005a).

Most studies agree that 150 minutes is a good goal for exercise. Some suggest that a little more (50%) is better. Exercise should be both anaerobic and aerobic. Weight lifting type exercises and cardio. I would add that when you get into good enough shape for HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), perform that twice a week and your normal 30-45 minute session is done in 20 minutes with great results.

Of course eating correctly, controlling stress, sleeping well, not being overweight and other things are super helpful as well and shouldn’t be overlooked. My point is that exercise should be tried or at least factored in before you go on medication. However, this is something to talk to your doctor about, as you should when beginning any exercise regime.

Usually, as you age your blood pressure goes up, for various reasons, but it doesn’t have to! Mine hasn’t, and both my parents had high blood pressure. Yours doesn’t need to either. If you have the healthy 120/80 or a little less, exercise! It will inhibit any rise in your blood pressure.

Finally, take your blood pressure correctly. Sit with your feet on the floor and your back supported and rest for 5 minutes. Breathe normally and take your BP in your non-dominate arm when it is held by someone at sternum height. Then, do the same on the opposite arm.

High blood pressure is a symptom of something, some sort of imbalance. Exercise will help, almost immediately. Explore all the options and by all means, get some exercise besides the exercise it takes to go to the pharmacy.


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