How to Control Heart Rate and Blood Pressure [EXPERT GUIDE]
So many of us – perhaps too many of us get into the gym and have the sole purpose of lifting heavier and building larger muscles.
Now, we’re not here to say this is not a good goal – because obviously building muscle and improving your body composition is always a step in the right direction.
However, how many people take time to step back and decide if their body is healthy from the inside?
Heart rate, blood pressure, lung capacity – so many concepts come to mind when you start to break down many of the core aspects of performance that we should all be looking to improve in.
In this blog, we are specifically going to discuss the importance of your heart rate and blood pressure. For the most part, these are the two areas where many people can improve, but it is also an area where most people can understand the importance and see value in improving their score.
Let’s get into it.
What’s a Heart Rate
This might seem like a very silly question to ask but most people are just unaware of what’s going on in their body. On a very fundamental level, the heart rate is the number of beats or contractions that the heart goes through in a specific time period.
In case you missed that – the contraction implies that the heart is a muscle, which it is.
The heart is actually a cardiac muscle that has the ability to contract tens of thousands of times a day without fail.
The only way we get into trouble is when we start to look at a blockage in the heart or in the arteries. This is a clear sign that the heart will need to work harder on every beat – and over time, this can lead to fatal and chronic diseases.
If you are after a healthy heart rate measurement your goal should be about one beat per second at a resting measure or 50-60 beats per minute.
This brings us to our next point – blood pressure.
What is Blood Pressure
For a moment, picture your garden hose.
When the hose is perfectly straight with no internal blockage the water runs smoothly – usually without fault. Now put a kink in the hose – the pressure will increase, making the walls of the hose work harder and the system that pushes the water through work harder.
This is the same idea behind why maintaining a healthy blood pressure is important.
Blood pressure is the measure of how much pressure is in the arteries. The higher the blood pressure, the more the heart needs to work in order for it to push blood through your body.
In the beginning, this might not be the biggest issue. In fact, the body goes through periods where cholesterol will build up in the arteries for healing and growth, where the blood pressure will rise – but this is only temporary and it will eventually lower.
The problem arises when you have a blood pressure reading that is chronically high.
This means that your body is constantly working harder than it needs to in order to provide you with working nutrients and fuel.
A healthy blood pressure reading for an adult is around 120/80. High blood pressures are around 130/90 and are pretty clear indicators of chronic disease starting to occur.
TOP TIP: The best time to check your own blood pressure is in the morning before you have eaten any food.
How to Improve Heart Rate and Blood Pressure
Now that we know how important these measures are to our general health you might be wondering how you can lower and control your heart measures.
Here are some of the most effective methods to keep your heart healthy and promote better strength:
Limit Processed Foods
This is a gimme people. Limiting your intake of processed foods is something all of us should be doing anyway – but if you haven’t, now is the time.
Processed foods are not only high in saturated and trans fats (the worst ones), they also contain a large number of processed sugars. The combination of bad fats that do not recycle cholesterol and processed sugar causing inflammation is one that can lead to chronic disease, high blood pressure and a heart that is working way harder than it needs.
Limiting your intake of processed foods will be one of the best ways to improve your blood flow and overall energy levels.
Steady State Cardio
Many of us like doing the fun HIIT workouts, but when it comes to heart health the most effective may come from performing low-impact, steady state cardio. The rationale for this is because, for the most part, your heart rate will maintain a very steady beat.
This means you can train the heart to work harder and more effectively at various beats – literally training the cardiac muscle to become stronger.
Think of steady state cardio as weight training for the heart. In this way, you can improve your heart health, lower blood pressure, control heart rate and improve your body composition all in one workout.
My personal favourite way to condition my body through cardio is through swimming or cycling – as they are lower impact on the joints and you can do them for much longer (especially cycling) without injury.
Reduce Your Stress
This is one of the biggest aspects of may of our lives that we just don’t talk about. Stress is an evolutionary system that human can use in situations like to run away from predators or make a critical decision – but these were used very infrequently.
In modern society, every business person is stressed – constantly.
This leads to a chronic state of hypertension (high blood pressure) and an elevated heart rate. Neither of these is indicative of a healthy person.
In order to better your heart health, you should look to reduce your stress through exercise, meditation, taking days off – whatever works for you. This isn’t just about your job anymore – if you have an elevated heart rate or chronically elevated blood pressure this is your health and longevity on the line.
How to Control Heart Rate and Blood Pressure
Controlling your heart rate and blood pressure is not a difficult aspect of human health – but it is one that will require time and dedication to enhance your life.
We must not forget that many of the things that are holding us back are the simple aspects of diet and exercise.
Many of our chronic diseases will circle back to being inactive and having a poor diet.
With that in mind, you can see how essential it is to jump on the treadmill, skip the fast food burger and start looking for healthier alternatives that will not only help you to lose weight – but also enable the internal organs to work most effectively.
Control your intake of fatty, cholesterol rich foods. Limit your intake of processed sugar that causes inflammation. Jump on a treadmill or a bike every now and then and stop eating fast food.
The changes will blow your mind and your heart will thank you.
Gabriello is a writer and strength expert best known for his science-based and practical approach to Exercise Physiology, Nutrition and Strength. After serving in a directors position for The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology Gabriello moved towards writing to help more people understand the importance of living a healthy life. Gabriello’s writings have been published in several languages on some of the largest health and fitness websites helping people learn, grow and understand the complex components of optimizing human performance in a simplistic way.
Gabriello also takes on specialized, high-performance athletes who are in need of strength, mobility and conditioning programming to optimize their fitness through his Earned Fitness program.
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