Walk This Way to Beat High Blood Pressure


Mini-strolls lower your risk of heart attack and stroke

A little stroll from the car to the office. An extra loop around the mall. A quick 10-minute walk after lunch. Adding a few steps here and there, every day, can add up to a big health bonus: healthier blood pressure, which means better protection against heart disease and stroke.

In a new study, 15 postmenopausal women with high blood pressure added an extra 4,000 to 5,000 steps a day by making small changes in their daily routines. The results: Six achieved normal blood pressure. Another three dropped their pressure from the danger zone to borderline normal. Blood pressure dropped an average of 11 points (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, Nov 2001).

The best news: The participants (who hadn't exercised regularly before the study) usually logged their steps simply by building more short walks into their day. They parked their cars farther from the shopping center or the office, took the stairs instead of the elevator, went for short walking breaks, or did a few laps at the mall before starting to shop. Lightweight clip-on pedometers kept track of their steps.

"Any physical activity can help lower blood pressure, but we chose walking because it's so easy," says Kerrie L. Moreau, PhD, research associate at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Dr. Moreau believes that it can help men as well as women.

Here's how to turn walking into your natural prescription for blood pressure control.

• GET A BASELINE BLOOD PRESSURE READING. Then retest every 2 to 3 weeks. If you take blood pressure medication, ask your doctor whether you can lower your dose or perhaps go off your meds entirely if walking lowers your blood pressure.

• BUY A PEDOMETER. To make it easy to keep track of your progress, buy the type that clips to your waistband. They're available in sporting goods stores or for mail-order information, turn to p. 92.

• STRIVE FOR 10,000 STEPS A DAY. Women who were "inactive" before the study began were actually logging 4,000 to 5,000 steps in the course of their normal daily activities. Blood pressure fell when they added an additional 4,000 to 5,000 steps.

• SNEAK IN MINI-STROLLS. Walk a few laps in the office hallway, or try the tricks listed above. Most women in the study did all their extra walking this smart, timesaving way.

Quick Tip
Drop your blood pressure more: Eat fruits, veggies, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains.

PHOTO (COLOR): Hoof it-for your heart's sake.


By Bridget Doherty

Edited by Sari Harrar

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