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Your Guide to Lowering Blood Pressure NHLBI Logo


Mary Ellen's Lifestyle Choices

  Mary Ellen Gannon
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Blood Pressure:
 170/90 mmHg

I need to be more physically active to lower my high blood pressure. It's been a while since I did anything tougher than pull a few weeds. So I asked my doctor about what to do, how to get started.

Mary Ellen's
Questions & Answers

Question: I'm 72. Are there kinds of physical activity that I should do?

It's never too late to become more physically active. There are different kinds of activity. The goal is to improve endurance, strength, flexibility, and balance. Aerobic activity is good for the heart, lungs, and circulatory system and improves endurance. Strength training builds muscles and increase metabolism, helping to keep weight and blood sugar in check. Studies suggest it also may help prevent osteoporosis. Balance exercises help prevent falls. Some build leg muscles, while others improve balance by making you do simple activities such as standing briefly on one leg. Finally, flexibility exercises are thought to help keep your body limber by stretching muscles and tissues.

People who are weak or frail and may risk falling, should start slowly. They should start with stretching and strength training and add aerobics later.

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Question: How do I begin?


  • Start slowly and don't push yourself too hard or too fast. You'll not only get sore but you'll also get discouraged.
  • If you haven't been active, choose something easy, like walking. As your fitness improves, you can do more or choose a new activity.
  • Set realistic goals. Even if it's just walking for 5 minutes at a time, you'll have met your goal.

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Question: What are the benefits of increasing my physical activity?

There are many benefits.

  1. Your weight is much easier to control when you're active

  2. Physical activity can be lots of fun

  3. You can be with other people when you're active

  4. You'll look and feel better when you're physically active

  5. Physical activity is good for your heart

  6. Physical activity helps you beat the "blues"

  7. You'll feel more confident when you're physically active

  8. You'll have more energy

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Question: What kinds of physical activities are good for heart health?

It doesn't take a vigorous workout to strengthen your heart. You only need to do a moderate-intensity activity. Here are some examples:

 Brisk walking — sample walking program
 Playing actively with your grandchildren

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