It’s World Hypertension Day!
In 2017, Public Health England reported that around 12.5 million people in England are affected by hypertension, but for every 10 people who have received a diagnosis, a further 7 remain undiagnosed and untreated. Hypertension is often described as the “silent killer” because it rarely causes symptoms, meaning it can easily go unnoticed and explains why, in England alone, there are around 5.5 million people unaware they have it. That is why it is so important to raise awareness of risk factors, as well as the prevention and treatment methods. And when better to do so than on this year’s World Hypertension Day!
But firstly, what is hypertension?
Hypertension is defined as high blood pressure at rest. When you have your blood pressure measured, you will be given 2 numbers. The top number is your systolic blood pressure and the bottom is your diastolic blood pressure. Hypertension is a systolic pressure above 140 and a diastolic pressure above 90.
Hypertension is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), and significantly increases the risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. Clearly, it is something that it is important to know about, especially since it rarely presents with any symptoms, as previously mentioned.
So, what are the common risk factors?
Risk of hypertension increases with age due to natural processes that occur to our blood vessels as we get older. It is also more common in men than women, but it is not inevitable, there are things we can do to control our blood pressure.
Common modifiable risk factors that are affected by our lifestyle include:
- Excessive sodium (salt) intake
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Excessive alcohol consumption
For both salt and alcohol consumption, it is important to stick to the recommended daily amount to reduce the negative implications of these factors on your blood pressure. It’s also important to maintain a healthy body weight, as being overweight is strongly linked to hypertension and a number of related health conditions like diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Where does physical activity come in?
Moving more reduces sedentary behaviour, helps manage a healthy body weight, and is also a great way to relieve stress, targeting the other major modifiable risk factors. In fact, regular physical activity is the easiest, cheapest and best way to reduce your risk of hypertension!
There is a strong consensus in the scientific literature that regular physical activity is essential to maintain a healthy heart and is a key component of lifestyle for the prevention and treatment of hypertension. Studies consistently demonstrate beneficial effects of movement on hypertension, finding reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure in individuals both with and without hypertension. Furthermore, Cornelissen and Fagard (2005) highlighted that the effects are greater in those with hypertension, eliciting reductions by as much as 7 mmHg systolic and 5 mmHg diastolic.
How does physical activity have such an impact on blood pressure?
Regular physical activity makes your heart stronger. A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort. This means that if your heart can work less to pump, the force on your blood vessels decreases, lowering your blood pressure. This in turn prevents strain on the heart and damage to the blood vessels which are associated with CVD.
What type of physical activity should I do?
There is strong evidence that highlights the importance of moderate intensity activity, that is any activity that gets you moving enough to use 3 to 6 times as much energy per minute as you do when you are sitting quietly. This could include anything from mowing the lawn, climbing the stairs, going out for a bike ride or dancing around the kitchen cooking. It is also important to reduce the time you spend sedentary, so even getting up to get a drink or have a short-walk in between work tasks, watching tv or reading a book, can make a big difference.
Importantly though, over 30 years of research confirms that all types of movement can help control blood pressure – this means the possibilities really are endless! In fact, the most important factor to reducing or maintaining blood pressure in a healthy range, is moving on a regular basis. It takes one to three months for regular physical activity to have a significant impact on your blood pressure, and the benefits last as long as you continue with it.
This is why, at KiActiv®, we believe that finding activities that you love and that suit you and your lifestyle is crucial for sustainability. Our personalised approach helps you unlock unlimited chances for movement in your everyday routine, in a way that can be enjoyed and sustained, to not only benefit your blood pressure, but also your overall health and wellbeing.
So, whether you have hypertension, or your blood pressure is at a desirable level, everyday physical activity can help prevent it from rising as you age, maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of a number of other conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers. As we like to put it, we are here to help you live your best life for longer!
The KiActiv® Team