You understand the health benefits of exercise — both mental and physical — and you’ve devoted yourself to getting the right amount each week. Whether it's the recommended 150 minutes per week, or much more, you’re getting a move on for your health. Frustratingly, your blood pressure numbers are still high despite these efforts, and you want to know why.
We understand your frustration, which is why Dr. Satjit Bhusri and the team here at Upper East Side Cardiology want to focus on hypertension that isn’t responding to exercise.
Why exercise is so good for hypertension
When we talk about high blood pressure, we’re referring to anything greater than 130/80. The top number measures the force of blood on your arterial walls during a heartbeat and the bottom number registers the pressure between heartbeats.
Nearly half of adults — nearly 120 million people — in the United States have high blood pressure, and one of the biggest culprits behind the problem is lack of exercise.
The reason exercise is so important is because it strengthens your heart, making it easier for this organ to pump blood out to your body. If your heart is weak, it works harder to push blood through your arteries, creating more pressure on the walls of the blood vessels. This pressure can damage the artery and lead to serious complications, such as heart attack and stroke.
Hypertension despite exercising
When we diagnose someone with hypertension, our first two recommendations are to exercise more and to make dietary adjustments, such as the DASH diet (dietary approaches to stop hypertension).
So, one reason why you might still have higher-than-normal blood pressure numbers is because you’re checking one box, but not the other.
Exercise is certainly great, but if you have a diet that’s high in sodium (salt), fatty foods, and sugar, you could be offsetting the great benefits of your exercise regimen.
While diet is important, there are other reasons why you might still have hypertension even though you exercise regularly, such as:
White coat syndrome
Some people are anxious when they go to the doctor, and even a harmless test like a blood pressure reading can be a source of anxiety that temporarily raises your blood pressure.
As with every other area of your health, your cardiovascular health can naturally decline with age. Your heart can get a little weaker and your blood vessels can succumb to wear and tear, leaving you with hypertension that exercise can’t cure.
People with chronic kidney disease often have hypertension, despite good lifestyle habits.
Smoking and drinking
If you smoke or drink heavily, this can lead to hypertension that exercise alone can’t tackle.
Family history of hypertension can also play a role, as can race — African Americans are more at risk for high blood pressure.
What should I do next?
If you have high blood pressure despite exercising, we certainly don’t want you to throw in the towel. Please keep up your regimen, because it is doing you a world of good.
Instead, come see us so we can do a full workup to figure out what's behind those high numbers. Then, together, we we can get on the road to lowering them.
To get started, please contact our New York City office on the Upper East Side of Manhattan to set up an appointment. You can also call (212) 752-3464.