New guidelines on high blood pressure made headlines late last year because they suggest that nearly half of all Americans have hypertension--up from about one-third under previous guidelines. The guidelines were updated because so many authoritative studies show a strong association between high blood pressure and serious health risks, such as high cholesterol, kidney disease, stroke, and heart disease. More than half of deaths from coronary heart disease and stroke happen to people with hypertension.
Blood Pressure and Aging
High blood pressure tends to worsen with age. Aging populations are more prone to "isolated high systolic blood pressure," where systolic pressure is elevated but diastolic pressure is not.
How Exercise Affects Blood Pressure
Increasing physical activity and fitness--even by small amounts--reduces blood pressure and hypertension. Both cardiovascular exercise and resistance training can reduce blood pressure. The guidelines recommend cardio (90-150 minutes/week) plus resistance training (90-150 minutes/week).
Diet and Hypertension
The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) can help reduce blood pressure. DASH encourages people to consume less sodium, saturated fat, total fat, and alcohol and eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.
What blood pressure category are you in? Have you had success in decreasing your blood pressure with exercise or diet?