Research - Exercise Better Than Blood Pressure Medication?
When it comes to getting healthy, we know we need to exercise more. Instead of simply losing weight and "getting healthier," did you know that breaking a sweat could help you ditch your blood pressure medication?
A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests this is the case.
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Researchers took a look at studies that examined the effectiveness of medication and exercise for lowering blood pressure. They found those with high blood pressure that both cardiovascular exercise and resistance training worked just as well as prescription blood pressure pills.
This is great news for the near 80 million Americans who suffer from high blood pressure.
But why are doctors so fast to prescribe pills instead of telling you to get off of your butt? While there are many reasons this could be true, let's focus on how exercising and lifting weights can help your blood pressure.
Huseyin Naci, PhD, assistant professor at the London School of Economics led the new research. Naci notes that a lot of the research on exercise interventions have been limited to smaller studies.
This new study included data from 10,461 exercisers.
While we can't completely ditch blood pressure medicine yet, the results are somewhat promising. Naci suggests for people who have been prescribed drugs for their blood pressure to discuss potential benefits of exercise interventions with their doctors.
Simply opening the lines of communication and showing you are ready to exercise to maintain your health could help your doctor work with you to find the best way to get you off of your medication.
How Does Exercise Affect Blood Pressure?
Many friends and relatives of mine seem to joke about not wanting to get their ticker pumping due to high blood pressure... even though there are plenty of studies to show the benefits of exercise on your overall health.
Lynne Braun, PhD, NP, a professor at Rush University and a member of the American College of Cardiology says “your blood pressure increases during exercise, which makes people think exercise might be a bad idea if you already have high blood pressure. After a bout of exercise, your blood pressure decreases and could drop below your baseline — and that effect could last for several hours.”
Over time, your body is going to decrease the resistance in your arteries if you perform regular exercise. This is going to make it easier for your blood to flow and subsequently drop your blood pressure.
While exercise could lower your blood pressure in healthy adults, the impact of exercise is even greater with those who have a diagnosis of hypertension. So, if you have elevated blood pressure to start with, you should expect to see a greater decrease.
Should You Choose Cardio or Strength Training?
While many studies suggest combining strength training with some cardio, studies suggest that performing cardiovascular exercise may give a slight edge to strength training when it comes to lowering your blood pressure.
Even better news is that both can cause a reduction in line with the effects of your common prescription blood pressure medications. Performing cardio also lowers the risk of heart disease.
A study published in the journal Current Hypertension Reports, researchers noted that exercising as little as one day per week is as effective — or even more so — than big pharma's remedy for reducing all-cause mortality among patients with hypertension.
Getting some exercise in could even reduce the number of blood pressure medications you are on. A study published in 2018 in the Journal of Hypertension found patients who took multiple blood pressure medications showed a significant decrease in both systolic and diastolic readings after a 40-minute exercise session for three days per week for three months.
This is why it is important to pick an exercise plan that you can stick to. Consistency is key to losing weight, getting healthy, and achieving anything in life.
Wrapping It Up
Instead of thinking about exercise as the sweaty pain you go through so you can eat more food and not gain more weight, try looking at exercise as a dose of medication.
When you can perform regular physical activity, you may be able to reduce the number of medications you take, lower the doses, or get off of them completely. Talk to your doctor about an exercise intervention and get some suggestions on where to start.
Hint - it's as easy as lacing up some shoes and taking a stroll around your neighborhood.
If you do not have a high blood pressure diagnosis, regular exercise can help protect you from that diagnosis down the road.
1) "How Does Exercise Treatment Compare with Antihypertensive Medications? A Network Meta-analysis of 391 Randomised Controlled Trials Assessing Exercise and Medication Effects on Systolic Blood Pressure." British Journal of Sports Medicine, 18 Dec. 2018, bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2018/12/05/bjsports-2018-099921.
2) "Exercise for Hypertension: A Prescription Update Integrating Existing Recommendations with Emerging Research." PubMed Central (PMC), www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4589552/.
3) "A9989 Effects of Exercise Training on 24-hour Ambulatory Blood Pressure in Resistant Hypertension: Preliminary Results of the EnRich Trial." Insights.Ovid.com | Find Journal Full Text Articles, Oct. 2018, insights.ovid.com/hypertension/jhype/2018/10/003/a9989-effects-exercise-training-24-hour-ambulatory/705/00004872.