High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most common medical problems—affecting about one quarter of all Americans. It is also the most common cardiovascular condition in competitive athletes.
Blood pressure can be thought of as looking at the stress on the heart. The top number is known as the systolic pressure and measures the stress when the heart is actively beating. The bottom number is called the diastolic pressure which measures the stress when the heart is at rest, between beats. The greater the stress on the heart, the greater the risk of strokes, heart attacks, and heart failure.
In adults, normal blood pressure is less than 120/80. Blood pressure between 120-139/80-89 is considered pre-hypertension, which puts someone at an increased risk of developing hypertension in their future. Stage 1 hypertension is when the blood pressure is between 140-159/90-99. Stage 2 is over 160/100, which puts you at a 150-300% increased risk of having a stroke, heart attack, or heart failure.
So if you have high blood pressure, what can you do to get it down? Eating a healthy diet and exercising are a great start. But, depending on the height of your blood pressure, there may be certain exercises you should avoid until your blood pressure is under better control. In particular, anyone with stage 2 hypertension needs to have their blood pressure controlled before they start an exercise program. Your doctor can discuss these issues with you in detail.