In my article “What are the main hypertension causes – Part 1” we have seen how an imbalance between four elements, sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium causes your blood pressure to go up. if you have high blood pressure, a second hypertension cause can very well be that you are not physically active.
This is due to the fact that lack of exercise is connected to higher levels of insulin in the blood which in turn is linked to high blood pressure as we will see.
Lack of exercise means high levels of blood insulin
People who have elevated blood levels of insulin, who have type 2 diabetics, are obese or don’t exercise, tend to have hypertension. Having a high level of insulin in the blood is a very important issue when it comes to high blood pressure and should concern everyone belonging to any of these groups since it can cause the following:
- Increase the production of triglycerides
- Decrease the “good” HDL cholesterol
- Promote a higher amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in the arteries
- Increase the thickness of the arteries
- Stimulate the growth of the muscles that constricts the arteries.
As you may have guessed by now, all these factors narrow the arteries, leaving less space for the blood to flow which means your blood pressure will go up. Thus, we can conclude that in an indirect way, high levels of insulin do the following:
1. They cause the arteries to narrow.
2. They increase the risk for strokes and heart attacks
So, you can see that elevated insulin levels that often occur in people with hypertension are of critical importance and cannot be ignored.
Exercise lowers high levels of blood insulin
If something is clear by now it is that the proper prevention of high blood pressure implies changing our lifestyle. This means not only changing our eating habits where we eat more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods, but also practicing adequate exercise.
We have seen in my articles on “Diabetes and exercise” how there are two kinds of exercise that lower blood sugar and consequently blood insulin. These two types of exercise are aerobic exercise such as brisk walking and building muscle strength. You can read now the whole series Diabetes and exercise to learn the mechanisms of how exercise lowers blood insulin.
Exercise makes muscles more responsive to insulin and decreases the blood level of this hormone. Lower levels of insulin also decrease any tendency of your body to convert calories into fat.
5 indirect ways exercise lowers your blood pressure
- Exercise returns blood pressure toward normal. The drop in blood pressure is connected to the decrease of insulin levels in the blood. Many scientific studies have shown that aerobic exercise can be remarkably effective in better regulating blood pressure and can even produce a fall in blood pressure in people with severe hypertension.
- Exercise decreases body fat. Losing excess weight may be essential for reducing blood pressure. Exercising at least 3 times a week plays a very important part in maintaining normal weight. In fact, any effective program to reduce weight and lower blood pressure requires at least some aerobic exercise in the long run.
- Exercise decreases the level of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, the one that causes heart attacks. These two fats are responsible for the formation of fat deposits in your arteries. We should be careful not to let this happen. We have seen that high levels of insulin trigger the formation of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol and we also know that exercise can lower high levels of insulin. Thus, it is not surprising that exercise lowers the bad fats in the blood.
- Exercise increases HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol. HDL carries the bad cholesterol to the liver where it can be converted into bile and excreted through the feces. Given the fact that high levels of insulin in the blood lower HDL, we can state that exercise, through the mechanisms of decreasing blood insulin, increases HDL cholesterol.
- Exercise increases the stability of electrical activity of the heart. Remember that the heart is a muscle and can benefit greatly from exercise. In fact, making the heart stronger through exercise increases the chances of surviving a heart attack. This is in part because exercise makes more stable the electrical activity of your heart muscle. In a study with animals, the chance of heart fibrillation (abnormal electrical activity that makes the heart stop pumping blood) was decreased in those animals that went through exercise training.
Before you embark on an exercise program, talk to your doctor. Through a blood test and an exercise stress test EKG he can assess your risk and let you know what precautions you need to take to prevent a heart attack while exercising.
Tomorrow we’ll take a look at several aerobic exercises you can incorporate in your life to lower your high blood pressure and some precautions you need to take. Until then, I leave you with one thought: get used to the idea that you need to make exercise a part of your life, the same way you need to sleep, eat, or drink (water, of course) to keep yourself alive.
You may argue that the fact you are still alive and reading this article is a sign you can live without exercising, therefore you are right and health authorities are wrong. You definitely have a point here, but if you continue this path of inactivity, eventually you will pay a high price. That price will be a shorter life or one with no quality, because health issues will be very much part of your life. Let’s work on prevention, please!