I read a headline in the press recently about the drive to medicate half our population to help reduce high blood pressure.
It showed how studies point to aggressive use of medication to get this problem sorted. Yet I would argue that aggressive promotion of exercise for everyone should be the absolute first line of defence for this problem.
Most people’s high blood pressure problems are caused by a chronic lack of movement. This leads to a weaker heart from the fact it does not have to do much every day – our body is very dynamic and clever and it is always looking for efficiency savings so if we sit and do nothing it will let muscle waste away that is not required.
Muscle requires lots of energy to maintain it so if it is not being used your body will let some of it disappear so it can move important resources elsewhere, such as using energy to feed your brain. I am over simplifying the entire process but the old adage of ‘use it or lose it’ is very true.
Therefore, you sit all day and your heart gets weaker. The knock on effect of this is that your heart has to pump harder to get the circulation moving, therefore, your blood pressure rises.
This is where we then see the usual, predictable, standard medical response of treating the symptom (your high blood pressure) rather than the cause (your sedentary lifestyle) because getting you to deal with the cause does not make a single penny for a drugs company.
I’m sorry to say that the world is a very cynical place and being healthy does not pay. Of course, humans are also naturally lazy and always looking for the easy route so having a drug for a problem appears the simple, easy way out.
Yet this is not in any way the easy way out. Have you seen the side effects of using these drugs long term? In an issue of Cardiology Review it was shown that these drugs increase the risk of death and being hospitalised. They can also cause acute kidney failure.
There are many problems with taking long term medication for a symptom. However, using exercise brings nothing but enormous benefits to all aspects of your life.
Exercise does not just lower your blood pressure, it can improve your mood, ability to do things (like going up stairs – and believe me, I see plenty of people who start to lose that vital skill), get out of a chair and on and on.
If you have been sedentary for a long time, start with walking and get advice from a health expert before you throw yourself into a movement regime. Do not be concerned by picking up niggles, aches and even injuries when you exercise – your body will recover from these and you will learn from them too.
Medication should only ever be the option of last resort – nobody has ever become ill from a lack of meds. Avoid wherever possible.
Exercise is truly the wonder drug of drugs for your health. Use your body wherever possible.
Our body is a moving machine, so move it.