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Blood pressure news
Keep flexible to beat blood pressure
Want to know how stiff your blood vessels are? Reach for your toes!
Stiff arteries (blood vessels) raise blood pressure and increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. A simple, painless and quick test may be able to show you how stiff your arteries are – provided you are aged more than 40 years.
A Japanese study has shown that asking people aged 40 or older to try to reach beyond their toes when sitting down appears to show how stiff their arteries are. The further the person could reach, the more flexible their body and the more flexible their arteries.
The researchers measured the flexibility of 526 healthy, nonsmoking people aged between 20-83 years. They did this by asking people to sit on the floor with their back against a wall with their legs straight out infront of them. The people then reached forward by bending at the waist. Depending on how far they could reach, the people were then divided into 'poor' flexibility or 'high' flexibility.
To compare their flexibility with the stiffness of their arteries, the researchers also measured the people's blood pressure, physical strength, endurance, fitness and speed of a heart beat of blood as it moved round the body.
Overall, the researchers found that being less flexible meant that people aged more than 40 had greater stiffness of their arteries and higher blood pressure. However this link wasn't noticeable for people aged less than 40.
It has been shown before that people who look after themselves and keep fit have lower blood pressures in later life, but it wasn't known if this was also true for people who kept themselves more flexible. The researchers were keen to find out and argue that their results show that there is a strong link between being more flexible and having more flexible arteries.
The study's authors suggest that you may be able to keep your arteries flexible and reduce your risk of high blood pressure by carrying out regular stretching exercises. However, these regular stretches should be in addition to (not in the place of) the recommended 30 minutes of exercise five times a week, because these activities give your heart a good work out.
Good exercises to stretch your body and increase your flexibility include yoga and Pilates.
Yamamoto K, Kawano H, Gando Y et al. Poor trunk flexibility is associated with arterial stiffening. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol 297: H1314–H1318, 2009.
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