Hypertension, more commonly known as high blood pressure, has been nicknamed ‘the silent killer’ because there are no noticeable symptoms, but its presence can be fatal. An individual with hypertension is at an increased risk for renal (kidney) disease, cardiovascular disease and stroke. The table below classifies blood pressure for adults aged 18 years and older.
Systolic BP (mmHg)
Diastolic BP (mmHg)
Adapted from ACSM’s Exercise Management for Persons with Chronic Diseases and Disabilities, Second Edition, 2003.
Systolic blood pressure refers to the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart is contracting. Diastolic blood pressure refers to the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart is relaxed. Hence, high blood pressure puts undue strain on the heart. ACSM identifies the following risk factors for hypertension: obesity, high sodium intake, smoking and inactivity. All efforts should be made to modify lifestyle first, but medication may be administered immediately when necessary. It is important to note that hypertension generally does not occur in isolation; often other pathologies exist, such as high cholesterol and insulin resistance.
Exercise plays an important role in managing cardiovascular disease and hypertension by improving cardiovascular fitness, increasing circulation and relieving stress. The following exercise guidelines can be used for persons with hypertension:
· Increase aerobic activity (walking, jogging, cycling, rowing, etc.) – try to do at least 30-45 minutes 3-5 times per week
· Avoid heavy weights
· Avoid movements that involve lifting weights above your head
· Remember to breathe throughout exercises – don’t hold your breath!
Remember: check your blood pressure on a regular basis so that preventative measures can be taken before the silent killer strikes!