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There are a number of things that can cause your blood pressure to go up… from foods you eat to medications you take.
But, two of the most common factors related to high blood pressure are age and weight.
Luckily, a new study has found that an easy two-step system can help lower blood pressure significantly, even if you’re over the age of 55 and struggling with weight.
Try this in the morning
In the study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension, researchers followed men and women, age 55 to 80, who were classified as either overweight or obese.
All of the participants were put into one of three categories of activity:
- Uninterrupted sitting for 8 hours
- One hour of sitting prior to 30 minutes of exercise in the morning, followed by 6.5 hours of prolonged sitting (exercise consisted of walking on a treadmill at moderate intensity)
- One hour of sitting prior to 30 minutes of exercise in the morning, followed by sitting which was interrupted every 30 minutes with 3 minutes of light intensity walking for 6.5 hours.
Can you guess which group ended up with the healthiest blood pressure levels?
If you said group 3, you win!
Although group 2 and group 3, who both did 30 minutes of morning exercise lowered their blood pressure (especially their systolic- the top number) compared to group 1, it was the women in group 3 who added the second step — frequent walking breaks throughout their day — that got even bigger benefits.
And, the system not only kept their blood pressure down all day, but it was also just as effective as any medication a doctor could prescribe. Considering the fallout from the recent FDA blood pressure drug recalls, this is great news.
“For both men and women, the magnitude of reduction in average systolic blood pressure following exercise and breaks in sitting approached what might be expected from antihypertensive medication in this population to reduce the risk of death from heart disease and stroke. However, this reduction was greater for women,” said Michael Wheeler, B.Sc., lead author of the study who is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Western Australia in Perth and works at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia.
According to the researchers, the fact that the system was even more effective for women is probably a combination of hormone responses to exercise and the fact that since the women were post-menopausal, they were at higher risk for heart disease and therefore needed the benefits even more.
Incorporating movement into your day
If you work in an office, you know frequent walking breaks can really help to break up your day. And now you know it can be hugely impactful on your blood pressure.
At home, enjoy getting outdoors if the weather permits and take a stroll through your neighborhood. If the weather isn’t cooperating walk inside, up and down stairs (one of the best exercises for women), and consider visiting the mall to get some steps in.
If physical impairments make walking difficult, don’t give up. I recently purchased an under-desk peddler to keep my legs moving for those times that I can’t get away from my desk.
In addition, if more movement is difficult for you, use the power of nutrition to lower your blood pressure. Both the Mediterranean and the DASH diets can significantly impact your weight and blood pressure. And, specific nutrients have also been shown repeatedly to promote healthy blood pressure, including:
- Grape seed extract – Its heart-healthy polyphenols activate the nitric oxide in the lining of your blood vessels to help them widen and improve blood flow.
- Vitamin K2 – Scientific studies have proven that taking K2 can lower your risk of blood vessels stiffening calcium deposits by 52%.
- Pterostilbene – Found in blueberries, pterostilbene is an antioxidant that helps block the creation of Angiotensin II – an enzyme that stiffens the walls of your blood vessels and triggers a hormone that increases the amounts of sodium and water retained by your body.
So don’t let age or weight hold you back when it comes to getting healthier blood pressure. You’ve got this!