Walking and High Blood Pressure

Regular exercise, like walking, is a proven way to reduce high blood pressure Because you can go for years without knowing you have the condition, high blood pressure has been called the "silent killer."

If you have high blood pressure, and you don't control it, your heart has to work progressively harder to pump blood through your arteries. Your heart may enlarge, and you'll be at an increased risk for heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure, and ath­erosclerosis (buildup of plaque in the arteries).

Men have a greater risk of high blood pressure than women until age 55, when their respective risks become about the same. At age 75 and older, women are more likely to develop high blood pressure than men.

People who have high blood pressure should work with their doctor to control it. Eating a proper diet, losing weight, exercising regularly, restricting salt (sodium) intake, and following a program of medication may all be prescribed to lower blood pressure and keep it within healthy limits.

Your blood pressure is a measurement of the pressure of the blood flow in your arteries. Your systolic blood pressure, the higher number, tells you the pressure in your arteries when your heart is contracting and pumping blood out into the body. Your diastolic blood pressure, the lower number, is the pressure in the arteries when the heart is relaxed.

During exercise, your systolic blood pressure increases to improve blood flow, thus increasing available oxygen to the working muscles. Your blood vessels may also become more relaxed, or dilated, to allow for the increased blood flow. This may mean a slight lowering of your diastolic blood pressure.

Right after exercise, your blood pressure is probably a little bit lower than before you started. This is a very positive response of the body. Regular exercise has been shown to result in a reduction in blood pressure for those who may be hypertensive.

It is interesting to note that when you stop exercising regularly, your blood pressure will return to its prior level, usually within a week. Therefore, you cannot "bank" your exercise, building up an account, so you can take time off. The benefits of exercise are reduced when you cease to partake of it on a regular basis. A small dose of exercise done over a long period of time has a much better result than a large amount done irregularly.

Just like you wouldn't want to overdose on medicine, neither would you want to overdose on exercise. If you miss a day or two, don't try to make up for it by overdoing it. Just start your routine again, perhaps even cutting back a little at first, depending upon how much time you took off.

So far we've looked at how walking can help prevent cardiovascular problems. But it can also lower the risk of contracting certain diseases. Get the details in the next section.

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