Systolic blood pressure is the upper blood pressure reading that occurs each time the heart contracts and pumps blood out of its chambers into the aorta. Diastolic blood pressure is the lower blood pressure reading that occurs when the heart relaxes between beats and refills with blood flowing in from the large veins.
If the pressure in the left ventricle is higher than the aorta, the aortic valve is open (systole). Systole refers to the contraction of the heart, and systolic arterial pressure is the highest pressure developed in the arteries during the ventricular contraction of the cardiac cycle. If the pressure in the aorta is higher than in the left ventricle, the aortic valve is closed (diastole). Diastole refers to a relaxed heart muscle, and diastolic pressure means the lowest arterial pressure during a heart cycle.
A blood pressure of 120/80 mm hg is normal, but different people have different bodies and different blood pressures. Normal ranges are between 100 and 130 for systolic and between 60 and 90 for diastolic. Chronic high blood pressure, called hypertension, occurs when the systolic reading is 140 or more and diastolic reading comes close to or exceeds 100.
According to the American Heart Association, the following is a table indicating the various ranges of blood pressure readings and what they mean:
Is it possible to exercise with hypertension? According to American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines Stage 1 patients can use low intensity training to help keep their blood pressure levels in check. Stage 2 patients can do aerobics, but cannot do heavy straining or lifting. These patients may have some organ damage due to increased pressure over time and may also have left ventricular hypertrophy. Stage 3 patients must have the approval of their physician before exercising and they should not train until their systolic reading is below 140 mm hg. These patients may have advanced blood pressure and heavier organ and heart damage.
Training on an exercise bike is preferable because it allows an instructor to monitor blood pressure readings before, during and after exercise. After exercising for at least one month and a conditioning effect has taken place the training program can be expanded.
One medical research study showed that patients with mild hypertension who did circuit weight training showed the benefits of lower blood pressure.
Some examples of good aerobic training are:
- The use of an exercise bike as stated before -- For the first week start with three to five minutes, working your way up to five to 10 minutes the first month.
- A walking program -- Walk every day for 10 to 20 minutes at an easy pace.
- Water exercise -- Water jogging or water walking for 20 minutes, three to four days a week.
It would be a good idea to hire a fitness trainer to help you find an appropriate training program that will fit your individual needs. Be sure that the trainer you hire is knowledgeable about hypertension and has experience in that area. Not everyone has a choice to make, but you have mild hypertension and had a choice between exercising and taking medication, which would you choose?