Physical activity is by far one of the most potent “drugs” there is, and its side effects are exactly the kinds you want to experience. Regardless of the primary reason you start an exercise program, your efforts will be rewarded in countless other ways.
A comprehensive exercise regimen, such as my Peak Fitness program, is very important in producing long-term benefits in people with high blood pressure. Nearly every program should incorporate anaerobic sprint or burst-type exercises one to three times a week, as these have been shown to be even more effective than aerobic exercises at reducing your risk of dying from a heart attack.
If you are insulin resistant, you’ll definitely want to include weight training in your exercise program. When you work individual muscle groups, you increase blood flow to those muscles. Good blood flow will increase your insulin sensitivity. Depending on your physical condition when you embark on your exercise program, you may need to consult with a health care professional for help increasing to the intensity required to lower your insulin level. Exercise in combination with the supplement L-arginine has been shown to correct the abnormal functioning of blood vessels seen in people with chronic heart failure. However, I would view this more as a drug approach and not necessarily a supplement you would consider using for optimizing health in general. L-arginine probably works through its interaction with nitric oxide. I would consider it an adjunct, not a replacement, for coenzymeQ10, which is a well-proven therapy for heart failure.
Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels
Believe it or not, the farther you live from the equator, the higher your risk of developing high blood pressure2. And did you know that blood pressure is typically higher in winter months than in summer?
Sunlight actually affects blood pressure in several ways:
- Sun exposure causes your body to produce vitamin D. Lack of sunlight reduces your vitamin D stores and increases parathyroid hormone production, which increases blood pressure.
- Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to insulin resistance (IR) and Syndrome X (also known as Metabolic Syndrome), a group of health problems that can include IR, elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels, obesity, and high blood pressure.
- Vitamin D is also a negative inhibitor of your body’s renin-angiotensin system (RAS), which regulates blood pressure. If you’re vitamin D deficient, it can cause inappropriate activation of your RAS, which may lead to hypertension.
- Additionally, exposure to UV rays is thought to cause the release of endorphins, chemicals in your brain that produce feelings of euphoria and pain relief. Endorphins naturally relieve stress, and stress management is an important factor in resolving hypertension.
Exposure to appropriate amounts of sunlight is a basic health requirement that extends far beyond blood pressure normalization. Vitamin D helps systems and organs throughout your body to function properly. Ideally, you’ll want to get your vitamin D through safe exposure to sunshine or a safe tanning bed, but vitamin D3 supplements can also be used. Please do NOT let your doctor give you a “prescription” vitamin D. That is vitamin D2, which is synthetic, and not nearly as beneficial as the real vitamin D, which is D3 (cholecalciferol).
Keep in mind that if you decide to supplement with oral vitamin D3, you must carefully monitor your vitamin D blood levels to avoid overdosing. (This is why it is highly preferable to get your vitamin D through sun exposure, since there is virtually no chance of overdosing.)
To learn much more about vitamin D test values and the best labs to get your tests done, please visit the linked page. I also recommend watching my free one-hour vitamin D lecture for more information about the incredible health benefits of this essential nutrient.
Controlling Your Stress is Crucial
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