How does Blood Pressure Impact Your Health and Fitness?

Updated: Dec 31, 2020



*One of the most consistent recommendations I’ve received from mentors and supervisors over the past seven years is to prioritize Blood Pressure measurements when assessing and reassessing clients. In today’s blog post I will highlight what this number is, why it is so important, and what we can all do about it. It has become a passion of mine to learn more and educate others to prioritize their blood pressure in their health maintenance.


High Blood Pressure is often known as the “Silent Killer” because there are no noticeable symptoms. While it does put you at risk for heart disease and is a leading cause of stroke, which can be fatal. Getting ahead of these unfortunate conditions is key in improving quality life and preventing painful, costly, and time consuming procedures or medication regimens. The following is meant to provide education on preventive measures, as I am not a doctor and this is not personalized medical advice.


What is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the pressure of blood in the circulatory system. It is measured for diagnosis as a risk factor for heart disease. It is measured in mmHg (millimeters mercury) the normal measurement is 120/80mmHg.


Systolic Blood Pressure:

Is the top number and measures how much pressure your blood exerts against artery walls when the heart beats (120 or less is normal). People over 50 years old are at greater risk. As arteries stiffen and plaque builds with age, this number tends to increase.


Diastolic Blood Pressure:

The bottom number, how much pressure your blood exerts against artery walls when the heart is resting between beats. (80 or less is normal).


How is blood pressure different from heart rate?

Heart rate is the number of heart beats per minute which measures the number of contractions of ventricles.


Types of atypical BP:


Hypertension: high blood pressure, a Systolic reads 140mmHg or greater and/or diastolic reads 90mmHg or greater.


Preeclampsia: high blood pressure in pregnant women.


Hypotension: Low blood pressure, a measure of 90/60mmHg or lower. Can be normal for some people (without dizziness, fainting, cold/sweaty skin, fatigue, blurred vision, nausea). Others have less blood and oxygen flow to organs. Refer to a physician for further diagnosis and treatment.


Prehypertension: blood pressure that reads between 120/80mmHg and 139/89mmHg. This is higher than normal and puts a person at risk for hypertension.


Why would your blood pressure be high?


White coat syndrome: a high blood pressure reading in a medical setting, when the at home reading is normal. This can happen with trainers, doctors, nurses, etc. due to nerves or anxiety in the specific environment.



Lifestyle factors:

  • Diet: sugar, trans fats, excess sodium, alcohol

  • Sedentary lifestyle

  • Poor Sleep Hygiene

  • Lack of Stress Management

  • Smoking

  • Overweight/obese


Other:

  • Older age

  • Genetics or family history

  • Chronic Kidney Disease

  • Adrenal or thyroid disorders

  • Sleep Apnea

  • Anxiety

  • Caffeine/ Stimulants

  • Sudafed


Blood Pressure Protocols to be mindful of:

  • Client is seated & feet are flat

  • Always use the left arm (unless not possible) & the arm should be in line with the heart,

  • They should not talk during this test.

  • Use a cuff that fits their arm well

  • Blood Pressure should always be taken twice to prevent error

I prefer manual (old fashion) cuffs, however, electronic ones are good too.


As a fitness professional, I cannot diagnose anyone with hypertension. However, I can refer an abnormal reading to a physician. Many physicians will prescribe lifestyle changes, medication, and request patients to purchase and use an at home cuff.


If a client receives a higher than normal reading, I will repeat the protocol again to confirm a high reading. If the number is higher than normal, I explain what the significance and how lifestyle impacts these numbers. After receiving medical clearance, it will be important to continue to take blood pressure regularly prior to each exercise session. It is not advisable to take a blood pressure reading during or after physical activity.


Contraindications for exercise: activities people with hypertension should avoid

  • Isometric holds

  • Overhead presses


Non-pharm Treatment with permission from physician:

  • Weight loss

  • Aerobic exercise and strength training

  • Other lifestyle changes (see list above)


Some medications can cause side effects during exercise-talk to you doctor before starting a new routine. When possible, take your blood pressure at home to monitor fluctuations.


How is hypertension different from diabetes?

Diabetes and high blood pressure often exist at the same time, it is unclear if one causes the other.



When working with a fitness professional, it is important to talk to them about your lifestyle, blood pressure history, and current measurements for optimal health and fitness advice and programming. I have helped several clients learn about their blood pressure numbers and make appropriate lifestyle modifications to prevent hypertension and associated conditions.


*I am not claiming to be a doctor and this is not medical advice, rather general information based on research and practical experience during my time in the health and fitness field.


Comment below on your experiences, questions, comments, or concerns about this topic!