Current medical opinion defines normal resting blood pressure for everyone over the age of 18 as lower than 120/80 mmHg. Readings over 120/80 mmHg call for lifestyle changes. Readings higher than 140/90 mmHg are defined as high blood pressure, called hypertension.
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If you're diagnosed with hypertension, you may need treatment with medication. Among men, blood pressure tends to go up after age 55. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
Exercise and Blood Pressure
Blood pressure measures the force with which blood pumps through the arteries. Pressure is measured between contraction and relaxation of the heart, also known as systole and diastole. In a healthy reading of 120/80, 120 is the systolic pressure and 80 the diastolic.
During vigorous exercise, systolic pressure may rise to 200 mmHg or more. The increase may be even higher for people with existing heart disease or high blood pressure. If you have one of these conditions, consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
Risks of High Blood Pressure
Each rise of 20 points in resting systolic blood pressure doubles your risk of dying from a cardiovascular event such as heart failure or stroke. High blood pressure is also associated with serious kidney disease. Lowering resting systolic pressure is essential to controlling hypertension. Control measures include diet, weight loss and exercise.
The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure includes the following recommendations. Though results vary by individual, low-fat meals rich in fruits and vegetables can shave up to 14 mmHg from systolic blood pressure.
Losing excess weight can bring it down by 5 to 20 mmHg. Thirty minutes of aerobic exercise a day may lower your resting systolic blood pressure by 4 to 9 mmHg.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure (JNC 7)
- JRSM Cardiovascular Disease: The Physician's Role in Prescribing Physical Activity for the Prevention and Treatment of Essential Hypertension
- The Lancet: Age-Specific Relevance of Usual Blood Pressure to Vascular Mortality
- CDC: High Blood Pressure