As surprising as it is, even in the fitness and bodybuilding circles, blood pressure seems to be an overlooked but very important aspect of fitness and bodybuilding.
Blood pressure can literally be the difference between life and death, and understanding blood pressure is a very important part of your health and fitness.
An at home blood pressure cuff is very inexpensive and should be a must have for everyone, not just fitness enthusiasts.
Both high and low blood pressure can be an issue and can be self-monitored, however, a medical professional must always confirm this diagnosis.
Blood pressure categories
As recognized by the American Heart Association, the five blood pressure ranges are:
BP numbers of less than 120/80
Elevated BP is when readings consistently range from 120-129 systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic.
Hypertension Stage 1
Hypertension Stage 1 is when BP consistently ranges from 130-139 systolic or 80-89 mm Hg diastolic.
Hypertension Stage 2
Hypertension Stage 2 is when BP consistently ranges at 140/90 mm Hg or higher.
At this stage of high BP requires medical attention. If your blood pressure readings suddenly exceed 180/120 mm Hg, wait five minutes and then test your BP again. If your readings are still unusually high, contact your doctor immediately. You could be experiencing a hypertensive crisis.
Blood pressure numbers and what they mean
Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers.
- Systolic blood pressure (the first number) – indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart beats.
- Diastolic blood pressure (the second number) – indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.
What number should most concern you?
Systolic BP (the first number in the reading) is given the most attention as the most important factor for cardiovascular disease for people over 50. In most people, systolic BP rises steadily with age due to the increasing stiffness of large arteries, long-term buildup of plaque and an increased incidence of cardiac and vascular disease.
However, either an elevated systolic or an elevated diastolic BP reading may be used to make a diagnosis of high BP either at home or at your doctor’s office. According to recent studies, the risk of death from ischemic heart disease and stroke doubles with every 20 mm Hg systolic or 10 mm Hg diastolic increase among people from age 40 to 89.
How to lower blood pressure
Do your cardio
Cardio is my number one recommendation for high BP. Weight training helps, but will not lower your blood pressure like cardio will. 30 minutes three or four times per week may be all you need, however if you are monitoring your BP and it remains elevated, you will want to add a day or two in there and also some high intensity cardio training (HIT). This interval HIT training has always worked best for me with my battle with high BP.
Especially if you are a PED user, you will want to keep a close eye on this. You may have very normal BP normally but when on PEDs it becomes extremely elevated. Keep your cardio up and minimize the risks of using PEDs.
Other things you can do to lower your blood pressure are
Lose some extra body and belly fat. Weight gain can contribute to your high BP issues very quickly. Carrying too much weight around your waist can put you at greater risk of high BP.
- Men are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 40 inches (102 centimeters).
- Women are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 35 inches (89 centimeters).
These numbers vary among ethnic groups. Ask your doctor about a healthy waist measurement for you.
Eat a healthy diet. We highly recommend a food diary, or use an app to track your food. Eating fruits and vegetables are key to lowering blood pressure. Potassium can lessen the effects of sodium on BP. The best source of potassium is food, such as fruits and vegetables, rather than supplements. Read food labels when you shop and stick to your healthy-eating plan when you’re dining out, too. I’d also recommend a green super-foods powder supplement for those of you not great with eating a well balanced diet.
Reduce sodium. Reading food labels will give you huge insight into what you are possibly consuming to give you high BP. Reduce sodium were you can. East less processed foods, don’t add salt, and be consistent.
Limit your alcohol intake. Alcohol can be both good and bad for your health. By drinking alcohol only in moderation — generally one drink a day for women, or two a day for men — you can potentially lower your BP by about 4 mm Hg. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.
But that protective effect is lost if you drink too much alcohol.
Drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol can actually raise BP by several points. It can also reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications.
Quite Smoking. Cigarettes increase your BP for many minutes after you finish. Stopping smoking helps your BP return to normal. Quitting smoking can reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall health. People who quit smoking may live longer than people who never quit smoking.
Avoid Stress. Try to avoid anything or anyone that is causing you stress. Focus on things you can do not things you can’t, outcomes you can control not outcomes you can’t. Try to resolve things that have caused you stress, and if you can’t resolve those issues, remove yourself from those issues if you can. Make time for things you really enjoy and be thankful for those moments.
Monitor your blood pressure. Get yourself a BP monitor that you can track your progress with. A good blood pressure monitor can run as little as 20 us dollars. Get one and monitor your progress daily.
Types of hypertension
There are two types of hypertension:
- Primary: High blood pressure that is not related to another medical condition
- Secondary: Another medical condition that causes high blood pressure, usually occurring in the kidneys, arteries, heart, or endocrine system. Examples include:
- Sleep problems like sleep apnea
- Blocked renal arteries in the kidneys
- Unusual levels of hormones controlling blood pressure
How to take blood pressure
Aim to take your BP the same time every day.
It is recommended to take your BP first thing in the morning before you have coffee or any other stimulants.
Avoid doing anything physical as this may throw off your numbers.
This step by step process is assuming you are using an electric BP monitor.
It is imperative that you have an arm cuff that will fit your arm.
For larger individuals there are large and extra-large options available on the market.
It is highly recommended that you rest in the area you will be taking your BP in for 15 minutes.
Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your back straight and with your legs uncrossed.
Rest your arm on the table with your palm facing up
The arm cuff should be level with your heart
You should make sure not to talk or move while taking your BP
It is important not to eat, drink alcohol, exercise, smoke, or bathe 30 minutes prior to taking your measurement.
Now that you are ready start your BP test, go ahead relax and wait, breathing normally until you test is complete.
Always make sure to make note of the date, time, and pressure readings for each day, most units these days have a digital memory option to record your readings.