Last updated: November 11. 2013 9:39AM - 2217 Views

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Yesterday at work I had a little spell.


I had my second bout with something that is called an ocular migraine. From what I have read, they are related to migraine headaches minus the headache part. They cause one’s vision to be filled with colorful zig-zag lines for several minutes and, while fairly harmless, are very scary. During the event, one of my nurses decided I needed my blood pressure checked just in case I was about to stroke-out on them. It was really high, somewhat because I was stressed, but even later on when I quit freaking out it is was still too high to be healthy.


Over the past several years, I have noticed that my normally 110/60 readings have been creeping up towards the levels of being unhealthy in direct proportion to my age and increased body weight. My doctor told me no medicine yet but if it keeps going at this rate I might be headed in that direction. What? I am not a medicine type of gal. I very rarely even take an ibuprofen, so I will be darned if I am going to take blood pressure medicine if I can help it. My plan is to eliminate stress and weight gain by increasing my exercise.


Your risk for high blood pressure — hypertension — increases with age, but getting some exercise can make a big difference. And if your blood pressure is already high, exercise can help you control it. Don’t think you’ve got to run a marathon. Instead, start slow and work more physical activity into your daily routine. Let’s look at how exercise can help keep your blood pressure under the boiling point.


— Strong heart: Exercise, particularly the aerobic type, walking, cycling, jogging, etc., will make your heart muscle stronger. A strong heart pumps blood harder and more efficiently, which can improve your blood pressure reading.


— Top number control: Becoming more active can lower your systolic — top number in blood pressure reading — four to nine points. That is about as good as some blood pressure medications.


— Weight loss: If you are carrying around extra weight, your blood pressure will increase. By using exercise to keep the fat off, particularly around the midsection, you can lower your blood pressure


To keep your blood pressure low, your exercise program needs to be sustained. It takes about one to three months for an exercise program to impact blood pressure levels. Once you get down into the healthy range, you need to maintain your program or it will start to creep back up again. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise as well as 75 minutes of vigorous exercise in combination each week. It is OK to break your workouts up to 30 minutes at a time or less just as long as you are getting it done.


While exercise is a great way to lower and help maintain healthy blood pressure levels, it is not a substitute for your doctor’s recommendations. If you are on blood pressure medications, continue to take them as prescribed, and get your doctor’s clearance before starting or intensifying your exercise program.


Kathy Hansen has over 25 years of experience in the health and fitness field and is on a mission to keep her blood pressure on the low side. She can be reached via e-mail at hansen02@srmc.org.

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