Although playing sports helps to improve blood pressure, practicing exercises specifically chosen for hypertension is more effective.
Hypertension is one of the most prevalent diseases in Spain. It is estimated that one in three Spaniards would be affected by this disease. Among the many tips to improve it, diet and exercise usually stand out, although the guidelines tend to be somewhat abstract at times.
Now, a consensus document of the European Society of Cardiology, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, has wanted to go further, writing more specific guidelines. Thus, depending on the levels of blood pressure, one type of exercise or another would be recommended.
It is estimated that up to one in four heart attacks are due to high blood pressure, and the data predict that up to 60% of the world’s population will suffer from hypertension in 2025. More than enough reasons to prevent this disease, or at least improve it
Although it is true that regular physical exercise improves hypertension, the recommendations had focused on a minimum amount of weekly training, without specifying the type of exercise or its intensity, or taking into account the blood pressure levels of each person .
Now, for the first time, a consensus document has analyzed the best current evidence to provide a detailed guide on how to reduce blood pressure both in patients already diagnosed with hypertension and in cases of normal blood pressure, either in the high range or in normal conditions.
In all three groups, the goal would be to reduce blood pressure, as confirmed by Henner Hanssen from the University of Basel (Switzerland), the lead author of the study. As it well indicates, the reduction of the arterial tension in any stage would end up reducing the risk of suffering a heart attack, a cerebrovascular accident or even death from any type of cardiovascular disease in general.
The new document would prioritize exercise as a way to reduce blood pressure, but would also name a few more alternatives, which achieve a lesser reduction.
In cases of diagnosed hypertension (blood pressure greater than 140/90 mmHg), the document advises performing aerobic exercise as the most effective method. This type of exercise would include activities such as walking, running, cycling, or swimming. It is even indicated that this type of exercise would be equal to or superior to taking a single antihypertensive drug.
In cases of normal blood pressure in the high range (130-139 / 85-89 mmHg), dynamic resistance training or strength training would be the first priority. In this case, the document speaks of training with at least six large muscle groups, where the movement implies muscle contraction as such: weight lifting, squats or push-ups, for example. Isometric exercises would not be considered in this case.
In cases of normal blood pressure (less than 130/84 mmHg), isometric resistance training would be the most recommended. That is, the performance of isometric exercises where a static muscle contraction is carried out, and not a dynamic movement as such. An example of this type of exercise would be the well-known isometric abdominal plank, where the abdomen is held in contraction without a movement as such.
As specified by Hanssen, it is important to distinguish between these ranges of normal tension or hypertension as such for prevention: obesity increases the risk of suffering from hypertension over the years, and having hypertensive parents would also be a risk factor. In these cases, it is possible to prevent or postpone the onset of hypertension by doing the right exercises.
In addition, as the document also clarifies, exercising regularly has multiple benefits beyond improving or preventing hypertension. It is a multifunctional habit, and if aerobic exercises and strength exercises are combined, better than alone.