How Stress Affects Blood Pressure & Fitness
Life can be hectic. Throwing in exercise and athletic performance on top of this can cause immense stresses to the body, mind and overall wellbeing. It can get busy and sometimes downright stressful to maintain life-work-fitness balance. Stress in certain situations is considered a positive influence. It pumps our thyroids and adrenal glands into short bursts of overdrive that will help us push a little harder and achieve our goals.
However, left unmanaged, stress becomes a chronic condition which manifests physically in several ways. Heart conditions, Thyroid and Adrenal Gland burn-out are commonplace. Blood pressure is quickest and easiest marker.
What does my blood pressure mean?
The American Heart Association’s latest statistics show that more than 100 million Americans have high blood pressure. That’s equivalent to around one out of every three people.
A normal blood pressure reading is generally considered to be 120/80 mmHg, but this figure can vary depending on ethnicity, age, sex, etc.
The top ‘systolic’ number reflects the pressure in your arteries when the heart pumps, while the bottom ‘diastolic’ number the pressure in your arteries between heart beats.
And if you’re constantly busy, eating a diet of processed food, not sleeping well and drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, then your blood pressure may be too high.
Being hypertensive is a silent killer as most people do not even realise they are stage I hypertensive (130-139mmHg) as they show no external symptoms immediately. It can have detrimental effect not only on your body but also your sporting performance.
Why is high blood pressure a problem?
A healthy body naturally has strong and supple arteries. High blood pressure stiffens and hardens them, increasing the likelihood of blockages. Further high blood pressure occurs when the blood pumping through your arteries encounters more resistance, through the narrowing of your arteries.
Atherosclerosis is the formation of plaques in your arterial wall and the most common cause of the narrowing of your arteries leading to higher blood pressure. Atherosclerosis occurs in response to poor dietary choices, weight gain, lack of activity and general poor health.
Symptoms of high blood pressure
The biggest danger with high blood pressure is the lack of immediate symptoms. You don’t notice it until it gets very serious. The most prominent signs and symptoms when your blood pressure is very high can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
- Visual changes
- Blood in your urine
Aim to get your blood pressure checked regularly, just to see where you stand. Do you need to make a few changes to your diet, exercise and lifestyle regime?
Solutions to high blood pressure
Diet, exercise, and lifestyle. The three most powerful tools to combat chronic conditions.
The 3 main tips to maintain a healthy blood pressure include:
1. Maintaining Optimum Weight
If you’re overweight or carrying excess body fat around your mid-section, then weight loss should be your top priority. Weight loss and better blood sugar control go hand in hand, and both improve blood pressure.
Food swaps throughout the day can induce weight loss and lower your blood pressure. Having butter on toast for breakfast? Swap it for some eggs and spinach. Do you cook with oils? Make sure it’s one of the better oils such as olive oil or coconut oil as opposed to sunflower oil and use smaller amounts. Why not try different cooking methods too.
Reduce your intake of processed carbohydrates – like breads, cereals and muffins etc – and replace them with foods higher in protein, fibre and essential fats.
2. More Consistent Movement
Aerobic exercise is thought to be the best for blood pressure, however new research shows that resistance training is highly effective in reducing blood pressure too. If you’re unfit then start by adding a 20-30 minute fast walk or light jog to your regime, then build up to five sessions per week. Or get yourself in the gym and start doing some light resistance training. The key is consistency. Exercise where and when you can with regularity.
This will not only improve your blood pressure, but it will also help to relax your nervous system and therefore improve your ability to cope with stress.
3. Learn to Breath
Learning how to ‘breathe better’ is crucial to calming your nervous system and thereby improving your blood pressure. Your busy lifestyle and hard athletic performance with lack of sleep is sending your ‘fight or flight’ nervous system into overdrive. This can lead to high blood pressure in the long run.
How does high blood pressure impact performance?
Busy training and competition schedules, strenuous, exhausting exercise, inadequate recovery practices and stress of competing can contribute to elevated blood pressure.
And elevated blood pressure can lead to a reduction in performance. Oxygen delivery to working muscles can be hindered along with glucose delivery to the brain. It is no surprise that high blood pressure is linked to cognitive decline.
An athlete that is not focused or cognitively enhanced will not be able to perform at their best. Reduced blood flow throughout the body impairs sporting performance substantially as your body will respire anaerobically, resulting in more lactic acid build-up and less energy.
Totum Sport, the only 100% natural hypertonic solution that contains 78 bioavailable electrolytes, reduces lactic acid build-up by 46% by delaying the switch from aerobic respiration to anaerobic respiration, to help you combat higher blood pressure and stress levels.
Top foods to reduce blood pressure?
Leafy greens contain a healthy amount of potassium which helps your kidneys get rid of more sodium through the urine. Sodium has been associated with hypertension, so reducing overall body sodium can help improve your blood flow.
Red beets are high in nitric oxide, which can help open your blood vessels and lower blood pressure. Studies have shown nitrates in beetroot juice lowered research participants’ blood pressure within just 24 hours
An oatmeal breakfast is high in fibre, low in fat, and low in sodium. Perfect to fuel you for the day and to lower blood pressure. Overnight oats are a perfect option for those who are busy.
Bananas are rich in potassium and a great fuel source to take before a workout due to their quick release energy.