Fit and Fun
High blood pressure reversal without limits
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article, fantasizing about what I would do with an osteoporosis client who had no limitations – time, money and nutritional compliance.
In this one, I’ll play out a different fantasy: what I would do with a high blood pressure client who had no limits.
Make no mistake about it – we work with real-life people, who have real-life limits. And we still see impressive reductions in high blood pressure, like George, Milan and others.
But what if there were no limits?
- They had enough money to exercise with a trainer each workout (the majority of our clients work with their trainer 1-2 times per week, with an additional 1-3 on their own) – 5-6 times per week
- They had enough time to exercise the necessary amount
- They had no problems with nutritional compliance
If all these conditions were true, what kinds of results could someone like this expect? For all intents and purposes, the vast majority of people can normalize their blood pressure in a matter of 1-2 months using a pretty aggressive approach. Even if it’s crazy high to begin with.
In fact, one reader of my blood pressure book from the UK (who I’ve never met, by the way) left an Amazon review, saying that her blood pressure was “crisis high” (her words), and went down to high-normal (that’s around 130-139 over 80-89) in a matter of one week. By following the nutrition side of things only – didn’t even implement the exercise and supplement suggestions.
Most people get great results even if they just implement 40-70% of our advice, but what would I do with a client who had no limits? That’s what we’ll cover in this article. Basically the “Cadillac” version of the high blood pressure reversal program. And if you see yourself in this position, and would like to give it a shot, just email me with the subject line “High Blood Pressure Reversal.”
GET TESTED FIRST
The first thing that I would do with a client who has hypertension is get tested for sleep apnea. Firstly, what’s sleep apnea? It’s a condition where you wake up dozens or hundreds of times per hour each night, gasping for air. Only you wake up so briefly that you go right back to sleep. By the time you wake up in the morning, you have no recollection of waking up (never mind that you did it hundreds of times), and you feel tired. You might have been in bed for 8 hours, but the amount of time spent asleep might only be 5 hours.
So what’s the connection between sleep apnea and high blood pressure?
Well, according to one study, the prevalence of sleep apnea in people without hypertension is about 4%. In people with hypertension, it’s 38%. In people with resistant hypertension, it’s 83%. Resistant hypertension is when someone is already on 3 medications to lower their blood pressure, and it’s still high.
In one study, where people with hypertension finally got treatment for their sleep apnea, their blood pressure dropped by an average of 7.8/5.3 mmHg in 3 weeks… with no direct treatment for hypertension.
So that would be my starting point.
I’m not going to go into the nitty-gritty of how I would design an exercise program for high blood pressure. I’ve written about that extensively in other articles, including a couple client success stories, and my entire book on that topic.
Rather this is going to be a description of the Cadillac version of that program.
First of all, I would start with cardio about 3-4 days per week, because cardio can drop high blood pressure by about 5-7 mmHg for up to 24 hours after the workout. But it has to be done right. What does that mean?
- It should be done with an intensity of at least 75% of your maximal heart rate
- It has to be done for 30-50 minutes
Second, I would add in strength training 2-3 days per week. But again, it has to be done right. What’s the right way to do strength training for high blood pressure reduction?
- The resistance should be light enough that you can do it at least 5 times, but heavy enough that you can’t do it more than 20 times.
- 2-5 sets per exercise
- 8-10 exercises per workout
The blood pressure reductions from strength training rival those of cardio, but the effects are longer lasting. With cardio, you might have been doing it 5 days a week for 10 years, but the day you stop, your blood pressure goes up.
With strength training, the results stick around even months after you stop. In one study, the blood pressure reduction effects of strength training lasted for at least 14 weeks beyond the cessation of strength training. Not that you should ever stop strength training, but it’s nice to know you have a buffer.
In my book, I do a thorough analysis of different exercise variables (i.e. how is 75% intensity vs. 50%, and vs. 90%? How is 3-5 days per week vs. 1-2, etc.?). For the sake of this article, suffice it to say “take my word for it.”
Yes, we can give exercise prescriptions for clients to follow on their own. And lots of them do, and get great results. But why do I think we can do even better if all of their workouts were with a trainer? A couple of reasons:
With our hypertensive clients, I find that they are too conservative with their progressions. They are too scared to raise the weight in different exercises. Their muscles and heart can handle it. Their mind can’t.
When you get a diagnosis of hypertension, you’re constantly concerned about doing the wrong thing. But a personal trainer knows when you’re ready to progress to the next weight, and when you’re not (not every personal trainer – just ones who have special training in hypertension). So the difference between doing all the workouts with a trainer vs. 1-2 with a trainer and 1-2 on your own would be as much as missing 20-30% of the blood pressure reduction you could have had if all the workouts were with a trainer.
Sometimes, you’re doing an exercise, and for whatever reason, it starts to hurt. The trainer can make an adjustment right then and there, and you continue the exercise pain-free.
On your own, a few things can happen:
- You can push through the pain, and make it worse
- You just skip the exercise, and miss out on the benefits
- You can try to modify it yourself, and miss out on the effectiveness
Fortunately, nutrition for hypertension is a lot easier than nutrition for something like diabetes or weight loss, which involves a lot of removing.
With hypertension, there are only a couple of things to remove:
- Energy drinks
- Other sweet beverages (though 0-calorie sweeteners are fine)
Even coffee is fine. Despite caffeine raising blood pressure for a few hours, it doesn’t raise the risk of heart disease… assuming it’s plain black coffee. Not a super duper creamy Frappuccino that takes 5 minutes to say.
What about sodium, you may ask? Shouldn’t you remove that? While sodium restriction only lowers blood pressure by about 3/2 mmHg (nothing to write home about), adding in foods that lower blood pressure is going to have a much larger impact.
What kinds of things would you add? Here is a list:
…if you want to read the rest of this article, visit HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE REVERSAL WITHOUT LIMITS
About the Author
Igor Klibanov is the author of 7 books on exercise and nutrition, and the CEO and founder of Fitness Solutions Plus. He is a sought-after wellness speaker, having delivered over 400 presentations to some of Canada's largest corporations. Get a free PDF version of his book, STOP EXERCISING! The Way You Are Doing it Now - http://www.fitnesssolutionsplus.ca/stopexercising