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Before embarking on a workout regimen, check your blood pressure first

PIXABAY

GETTING in more exercise is one of the top New Year’s resolutions every year, and individuals embarking on a new workout routine will do well to have their vital signs (such as blood pressure, pulse rate, respiratory rate, and temperature) checked first.

“If your BP is too high, start with low-intensity exercises first such as walking or biking or lifting weights,” Vergil A. Oabel, a registered physical therapist, advised in a Dec. 30 episode of the Adventist Medical Center Manila’s Voice of Health. “If you have an existing disease, consult your doctors first before starting to exercise.”

Blood pressure (BP) is the force of the blood pushing against the arteries as the heart contracts and relaxes with each beat. This is read in two numbers — a systolic reading which measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats, and the diastolic reading which measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats. “Normal” blood pressure means having a systolic reading of less than 120 and a diastolic reading of less than 80 (i.e., 120/800 mmHg) — although a single, elevated blood pressure measurement does not necessarily indicate a problem.

“A high BP reading can lead to diseases such as a stroke [which is what happens when blood flow to the brain is blocked] or an aneurysm [which is the abnormal ballooning of a blood vessel wall]. Organs may also give way, as in the case of multiple organ failure,” said Mr. Oabel in the vernacular.

WHO SHOULD GET CHECKED OUT?“The reason behind [the suggestion to get checked out by a doctor before embarking on an exercise routine] is that, in theory, when you start to participate in a moderate or intense activity, there is a slightly increased risk of a heart attack or cardiac complications,” said Dr. Neel Chokshi, the medical director of the Penn Sports Cardiology and Fitness Program and assistant professor of clinical medicine, in the Penn Medicine’s Penn Heart and Vascular Blog. “So the heart check-up would be to make sure a person doesn’t have an underlying heart condition that they may not be aware of — or that they don’t undertake a regimen that’s too intense, if they are normally pretty sedentary.”

But according to Dr. Chokshi, this is changing. “As a medical community, we’ve realized that recommending everybody see a doctor first before starting to exercise can actually create an obstacle that keeps people from exercising,” he said. “So the American College of Sports Medicine has revised its guidelines. The goal is to balance ensuring patient safety with overcoming any obstacle to exercise.”

If a person is normally sedentary, it is best to consult a doctor first before starting a regular exercise program, to make sure there are no unknown underlying conditions. If a person has signs of heart problems or has other health issues that can predispose one to heart issues — like diabetes, kidney disease, and lung disease — they should get checked out first.

And if you are planning on embarking on high intensity exercise like running, especially if you are not normally an active person, see your doctor first. You do not want to collapse of a heart attack in the middle of a marathon.

The Mayo Clinic says some of the other reasons for checking in with your healthcare provider prior to the start of an exercise program: obesity, dizziness during activity, and a history of heart attack.

BENEFITS OF EXERCISEOne should not be put off from exercise as there are many benefits beyond, say, weight management. These include a lowered risk of falls and injuries from falls, a reduction of stress and anxiety, the prevention of diseases like arthritis and stroke, an improvement of cognitive function, and the control of one’s blood pressure.

Deaths due to hypertensive diseases was the fifth leading cause of death in the Philippines in 2022, per the Philippine Statistics Authority. Moreover, a June 2022 study in Journal of Hypertension noted that the economic cost of hypertension in the country is expected to increase to P97.3 billion by 2050 from P52.6. billion in 2020.

The World Health Organization cautioned that people can have hypertension without any signs and symptoms.

Don’t be afraid to get your BP checked, Mr. Oabel said: “Mas maganda na… malaman na ngayon, para mabigyan ng lunas [It’s better that… you’re aware of your reading now, so you can remedy it if need be].” — Patricia B. Mirasol

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