High Blood Pressure and Physical Activity

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries, which carry blood from your heart to other parts of your body. Blood pressure normally rises and falls throughout the day. Having high blood pressure means the pressure of the blood in your blood vessels is higher than it should be. About 1 in 3 U.S. adults—or about 70 million people—have high blood pressure. Only about half of those people have their high blood pressure under control. This common condition increases the risk for heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure is called the “silent killer” because it often has no warning signs or symptoms and many people do not know they have it.

Some risk factors, such as your age or family history, cannot be controlled but you can take steps to lower your risk by changing the factors you can control. Risk factors include health conditions, your lifestyle, and your family history. Conditions include prehypertension and diabetes. Prehypertension is blood pressure that is slightly higher than normal and increases the risk that you will develop chronic, or long-lasting, high blood pressure in the future. Diabetes causes sugars to build up in the blood; about 60% of people who have diabetes also have high blood pressure. Your lifestyle choices (including an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, obesity, too much alcohol and tobacco use) can increase your risk for high blood pressure. Genetics and family history can also lead to an increased risk for high blood pressure.

You can make changes to your lifestyle that will help you control your blood pressure. Often, doctors will prescribe medication that can help you control your blood pressure. In terms of lifestyle changes, eat a diet that is low in salt, total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol and a diet that is high in fresh fruits and vegetables. You can also control your blood pressure by remaining active and not smoking.

If you don’t have high blood pressure, you can stay healthy by practicing healthy living habits and preventing or treating medical conditions. Healthy living habits include eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough physical activity, not smoking and limiting alcohol use. It is incredibly important to measure your blood pressure, manage diabetes if you have it, take medications and talk with a healthcare team.

Various facts and benefits of healthy living habits can be found below:

Physical Activity Facts

  • Regular physical activity in childhood and adolescence improves strength and endurance, helps build healthy bones and muscles, helps control weight, reduces anxiety and stress, increases self-esteem and may improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that young people aged 6-17 years participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily
  • Schools can promote physical activity through comprehensive school activity programs (including recess, classroom-based physical activity, intramural physical activity clubs, interscholastic sports and physical education)
  • Schools can also work with community organizations to provide physical activity programs and share physical activity facilities

Benefits of Regular Physical Activity

  • Regular physical activity helps build and maintain healthy bones and muscles
  • Regular physical activity helps reduce the risk of developing obesity and chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and color cancer
  • Regular physical activity reduces feelings of depression and anxiety and promotes psychological well-being
  • Regular physical activities may help improve students’ academic performance, including:
    • Academic achievement and grades
    • Academic behavior
    • Facts that influence academic achievement, such as concentration and attentiveness in the classroom

Long-Term Consequences of Physical Inactivity

  • Overweight and obesity (which are influenced by physical inactivity and poor diet) can increase one’s risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, arthritis, and poor health status
  • Physical inactivity increases one’s risk for dying prematurely, dying of heart disease, and developing diabetes, colon cancer, and high blood pressure