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A blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg at two or more readings indicates elevated blood pressure or hypertension. The first number the systolic pressure, is a measurement of the pressure of blood against the artery walls during the contraction phrase of the heart. The second number, diastolic pressure, measures the pressure against the artery walls when the heart is resting between beats.

Hypertensive individuals have an increased risk of heart disease atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries), arteriosclerosis hardening of the arteries), congestive heart failure, stroke, aortic aneurysm (a weakening in the aorta wall that can lead to rupture), and left-ventricular hypertrophy (enlargement of the heart). Research has shown that regular, moderate exercise can reduce the systolic pressure by 13 points and the diastolic pressure as much as 18 points. This fact makes it possible for a person with mild hypertension to reduce their blood pressure to a normal level or keep the susceptible individual from having elevated blood pressure levels.

If you want to lower your blood pressure, regular exercise will help you do this. The good part is that you do not have to work out very hard to get positive results. Low-intensity exercise such as brisk walking, low-impact aerobic dance, cycling, or swimming will provide greater results than high-intensity exercise

High blood pressure is a hidden condition that often shows no signs

Routine examinations by a physician are important for diagnosis of blood pressure problems. It is important to have a physician's approval if you have high blood pressure before you begin an exercise program. People with mild hypertension will usually receive an okay from the doctor to begin an aerobic exercise program. The focus for the aerobic activity needs to be on endurance training and staying within the low end of your target heart rate. This means staying within the 40 to 65 percent range of your maximum heart rate Exercising three to four times a week for one hour will get good results. If you have been sedentary, begin with a 30-minute session gradually increasing the time over a six-week period. Also, avoid strength training and exercises that involve pushing or pulling. These kinds of exercises can cause fluctuations in blood pressure. However with a physician's approval, most low-resistance weight training can be added as your fitness level improves.

A healthy lifestyle will help to prevent, reduce, and control hypertension. The following are some ways to a healthier way of living:

- Maintain a healthy weight.

- Exercise on a regular basis.

- Reduce sodium to 2.3 grams or less each day.

- Avoid appetite suppressants, decongestants, and   nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications.

- Reduce stress by learning relaxation techniques.

- Reduce dietary fat and cholesterol.

- Limit alcohol consumption to less than one ounce daily.

- Stop smoking.

Gord - Women in Motion

Women in Motion July 2.2001