The words high blood pressure are often thrown around the gym much like the word cavities is thrown around in the dentists office. Those that are hypertensive don’t think much of it, and will want to continue to exercise regardless. Much like someone that has a cavity will continue to eat sugar and sweets without brushing their teeth. The only difference is, if your tooth rots, you can always get it removed, but when the hypertension decides to strike- there’s no turning back.
Often sited as the silent killer- hypertension contributes to about 400,000 deaths every year. The scary thing is there are no symptoms for detection, and it is a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke and kidney failure, with about 20% of sufferers not even knowing they have it.
As there are no symptoms to detection, I can understand why most people may feel that they are O.K to exercise when their pressure is elevated. But do you know what’s actually going on inside of your body?
As your heart beats it sends blood through the arteries and veins- the higher the pressure is- the greater the stress on the blood vessels. Stress on the blood vessels makes people with hypertension more prone to heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and aneurysms. And as you exercise your heart beats at a much more rapid rate, pumping the blood through the blood vessels at a greater force- making it more likely to cause irreparable damage. So if you have high blood pressure and your doctor has given you specific guidelines to follow when exercising- make sure you stick to them. You may feel fine, but all it takes is a split second between being fine, and being on a hospital bed.
When you take your pressure you may see that there are two numbers, the systolic is the top number- this represents the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The diastolic pressure, which is the bottom number, indicates the pressure in the arteries when the heart relaxes between beats. Ideally you want your pressure to be around 120/80, anything that reads 140/90 or above is considered high.
Hypertension contributes approximately 45 per cent of all cases of heart disease in Barbados, and is within the top 10 causes of death on this island according to the World Health Rankings. So it is a serious problem that needs to be addressed, if you do have hypertension or pre-hypertension make sure you are regularly checking your blood pressure. If you have not gotten your pressure checked in a while, go to your nearest doctors or health facility to get a reading. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to hypertension, it could make all the difference of you ending up in a hospital bed or worse.