Having good blood pressure is essential to the health of your heart and the arteries and vessels in your body. Normal blood pressure is considered to be 120/80 mmHg and blood pressure above 140/90 mmHg is considered hypertensive. If you have blood pressure between 120/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg then you are at increased risk of hypertension and are considered pre-hypertensive. There are normally no signs or symptoms if you have high blood pressure so regular checks with your doctor are essential, especially as you age as blood pressure tends to increase with ageing. If you have severe hypertension you may have headaches upon waking, experience dizziness, palpitations and fatigue easily.
Hypertension causes damage to your blood vessels, they become stiffer and less elastic meaning they are not able to accommodate the fluctuations in blood pressure that are experienced with each contraction of your heart muscle. This increases your risk of heart disease, peripheral artery disease, chronic kidney disease and can damage your eyes. Hypertension also accelerates the growth of plaques in your arteries that can dislodge and cause strokes or heart attacks by blocking the blood vessels and preventing blood from flowing through them.
Risk factors for high blood pressure include being obese, diabetes, alcohol consumption, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, family history and salt consumption. Men are more likely to suffer from hypertension than women.
Exercise, dietary changes and weight loss, along with medications are cornerstone treatments for this disease. Eating a healthy nutritious diet with reduced salt and participation in regular physical activity can help to manage and reduce this condition. Exercise has beneficial effects on your blood vessels by improving their elasticity making it easier for the heart to pump your blood around your body. Exercise physiologists can help you begin and maintain an exercise program tailored to your health conditions that are safe and effective. As always, speak to your doctor before commencing an exercise program.
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