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Another reason to exercise every day during the holidays

William B. Farquhar, Professor at University of Delaware shares how daily exercise can prevent high blood pressure–a primary health concern for Hispanic and Latino populations. 

Yes, of course we all know we should exercise every day during the holiday season to help counter the onslaught of excess calories that started on Thanksgiving and will mercifully end with a New Year’s toast.

We may even tire of hearing about exercise and weight from family, friends and the media. But an equally important reason to exercise every day is related to blood pressure, not waistline.

As a physiologist who has studied exercise and health for over 20 years, I can tell you that exercise lowers blood pressure – and does so right away.
Whether you go for a daily run or brisk walk, every time you finish exercising your blood pressure goes down, and stays down for many hours, which is good for your overall health. Here’s why.

Immediate drop in blood pressure occurs

The immediate blood pressure lowering effect of exercise is referred to as “post-exercise hypotension,” and many studies have shown that blood pressure declines 5 to 7 mmHg after every exercise session. The mechanisms responsible for lowering blood pressure immediately after exercise are not fully understood, but involve dilation of the blood vessels. Whatever the precise cause, this phenomenon is clearly beneficial.

During exercise the opposite occurs, blood pressure actually increases dramatically. Why? We are hardwired to exercise. When we exercise, our working muscles need oxygen-rich blood. Our brain signals the heart to increase blood flow and blood pressure rises. Systolic blood pressure (top number) can exceed 180 mmHg during hard exercise.

This sounds like a crazy-high number, and it would be if a reading like this were taken while seated, but it is not unusual during strenuous exercise. High blood pressure values during exercise are offset by the many low values recorded after exercise, to the benefit of the body.

high blood pressure, hypertension

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Why worry about blood pressure? Simply put, high blood pressure (i.e., hypertension) kills. It is estimated that hypertension is a primary or contributing cause of death of more than 400,000 Americans annually. Estimates suggest that one billion people worldwide have hypertension. Here in the U.S., one-third of the population is hypertensive, and these numbers are projected to rise 7 percent by 2030. This is not just a concern for older adults – one estimate suggests that 19 percent of young adults have hypertension.

Hypertension increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. The societal costs of hypertension are astronomical. When you consider the cost of health care services, medications and missed days of work, estimates suggest that hypertension costs the U.S. US$46 billion per year. Often, there are no signs or symptoms of hypertension, which is why it is referred to as the “silent killer.” Even among adults who have been diagnosed with hypertension, nearly half do not have it under control despite taking medications. Needless to say, anything you can do to lower your blood pressure will lower your risk of disease.

Great news: You don’t have to spend hours on this

As my colleagues and I point out in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, exercise guidelines for those with hypertension emphasize the importance of daily or near-daily exercise to lower blood pressure. While the guidelines focus on those diagnosed with hypertension, daily exercise can benefit everyone.

To some, daily exercise may seem onerous, but the good news is that the exercise need not be intense or lengthy – moderate intensity exercise such as brisk walking for 30 minutes will lead to reductions in blood pressure. There is even evidence that short exercise bouts throughout the day (e.g., 10 minutes, three times per day) can lower blood pressure.

The bottom line is that exercising every day (and obviously eating less) will help prevent holiday weight gain, but an equally important benefit of daily exercise is lower blood pressure.The Conversation

You might be interested: Start the conversation about Latino health concerns this Family Health History Day 


William B. Farquhar, Professor of Kinesiology & Applied Physiology, University of Delaware

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Start the conversation about Latino health concerns this Family Health History Day 

Did you know, Thanksgiving is also National Family Health History Day? Officially designated as such in 2004 by the surgeon general, this day is dedicated to learning your family health history and starting conversations about the topic with your loved ones. 

Knowing your family health history is important and can help you prevent and watch for certain health risks that may run in your family.  It’s especially important to know your family health history when it comes to diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. These diseases are often inherited and knowing your family health history can help you be aware and take preventive measures. By knowing your health risks, you can make lifestyle changes and screen for illnesses before they happen. 

Additionally, some of these diseases can also skip generations. You may think you have a pretty good understanding of your family’s health history, but usually this only includes one or two generations that you have known in your lifetime. Asking grandparents about their parents and other relatives will help give a fuller picture of what health risks may run in your family and what diseases may pop up again after skipping generations. 

Starting these conversations with family members may be hard, but they are necessary not only for your health but for the health, but for the health of everyone in your family and of future generations. 

Common Latino and Hispanic health concerns 

For Latino and Hispanic families, some health concerns you may want to look out for include: high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, cancer, and heart disease. 

According to the CDC, heart disease and cancer in Hispanics are the two leading causes of death, accounting for about 2 of 5 deaths. Statistically, Latinos are more likely to suffer from heart disease and on average, Hispanic women at risk of heart disease are likely to develop the condition 10 years earlier than non-Hispanics according to data from Go Red for Women

Other health concerns that Latinos and Hispanics should discuss with family members are chronic liver disease, chronic kidney diseases, and strokes. 

Data shows that Hispanic Americans have twice the rate of chronic liver disease compared to non-Hispanic whites and are more likely than whites to die of chronic liver disease. 

Hispanics are also 1.5 times more likely to have kidney failure compared to other Americans, and 20 percent of people on the kidney transplant waiting list are Hispanic. 

Getting the conversation started

To get started talking about your family health history with your loved ones, begin by asking questions. The CDC outlines questions you can use to get the conversation started such as: 

  • Do you have any chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes, or health conditions, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol?
  • Have you had any other serious diseases, such as cancer or stroke? What type of cancer?
  • How old were you when each of these diseases or health conditions was diagnosed? (If your relative doesn’t remember the exact age, knowing the approximate age is still useful.)
  • What is your family’s ancestry? From what countries or regions did your ancestors come to the United States?
  • What were the causes and ages of death for relatives who have died?

Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

After asking these questions, record the information and update it as you learn more about your family health history. 

The CDC offers a free web-based tool called My Family Health Portrait, to help you organize the information. My Family Health Portrait also allows you to share this information easily with your doctor and other family members.

Once you have collected this information, you can then discuss these concerns with your doctor and make plans for screening tests and other examinations. 

Start the conversation this Thanksgiving with your loved ones and help each other learn more about your family health history to keep each other healthy for years to come!