Taming The Silent Killer

I’m sure you’ve been warned about it or had a family member diagnosed with High Blood Pressure (Hypertension), also known as the “silent killer,”  at some point in your life.

HBP is the leading cause of kidney failure, and is also a risk factor for stroke and other cardiovascular catastrophes. If left unattended for too long, bad things happen.

No matter your age, get tested at the same time each day over a period of a week – when you are not under the effects of caffeine or fresh off the court after a hard workout –  and determine your average reading. If you fall into one of the three high categories below, basically anything over 120/80, some preventative steps should be taken. But before running to your doctor for some side-effect ridden meds, try some of my recommendations below. Even though it’s probably the most common cardiovascular condition, it’s surprisingly easy to control if proper steps are taken on a consistent basis.

Tips to lower BP:

1) Cardiovascular Exercise: If you’ve followed my blog at all over the last year (hi, mom), you know I’m not a huge fan of endurance exercise for the athlete or bodybuilder. There comes a point of diminishing returns where muscle loss outweighs fat loss, and that’s not what I’m about obviously. But there’s no arguing the heart benefits of cardio. No matter how much weight lifting you do, or how many super sets, the blood pressure benefits of anaerobic exercise are minimal compared to a half hour-plus of hard cardio on the bike or jogging around the neighbourhood. I prefer interval cardio a few times a week (beer league hockey counts) as studies suggest more of an anabolic environment that way, but if that’s not an option, get on the bike and sweat it out at least three times a week.

2) Dietary Changes: Try to minimize salt intake, or drink a lot of water to compensate. Salt is an important tool in the athlete’s arsenal – you sweat a lot out during exercise and need to replenish – but lots of today’s fast food options have excessive amounts. Drink water! Eat healthy! Sounds relatively simple, right?

3) Supplements: There’s no doubt blood pressure medications will have the desired effect of lowering blood pressure, but that comes at a cost. Many of today’s pharmaceutical drugs are over-prescribed when some of the above changes should be attempted first. The meds have side effects, so don’t think it’s a magic pill you can take once a day and cure all your problems without taking a hit somewhere else. So what can you do if cardio and dietary changes haven’t lowered your numbers enough? CoQ10 / Ubiquinol is a proven over-the-counter supplement. The latter version is better absorbed, though harder to find. Available in pill form. I’ve heard cranberry extract, hawthorn berry and celery extract as well, but haven’t seen enough documentation to give them my ringing endorsement.

Reducing your body weight is helpful too. But by implementing the above methods, I can nearly guarantee you’ll lose some weight in the process anyway. A win-win. You’re never too young or too old to make a  change here, so get on it.

Stay healthy, my friends!


Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based fitness coach for men and women like his former self. Heavyset in his 20s, he lost 60 pounds and now helps clients find their spark and lose the weight for life.