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Cycling and hypertension

6604 Views 14 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  moobikes
I want to preface this post by saying that I am actively seeking medical attention and undergoing diagnostic testing but was interested if anyone has had a similar experience (tried to make it short).

I am a 37 y.o. male and have always been physically active (ran XC at University and train 8-11 hours/week on my bike for XC and road riding). My winter training has been going well with good energy levels and normal response with my HR to power during workouts. I recently went to my family doc for my annual physical and he found my BP high (140/90 ish). I've never had an abnormal reading and have not had any symptoms--he said not to worry he'd get my lab results (urinalysis/blood) and follow up. The following day(after an 11 hr work day) I started to not feel well and took my BP on a borrowed monitor and found it to be higher than the previoius day. This led to what I think was an anxiety attack and a trip to the ER which showed nothing more than the elevated BP (which was really elevated by that time!) Lab tests were negative for any systemic issues and I was sent for a Graded Exercise Stress Test and a heart ultrasond. My US was normal as per the attending doc as they were worried about an enlarged left ventricle.

I was told that light aerobic exercise was OK as long as my BP is less than 150-160. They're hesitant to start me on meds as it's all new and they want to make sure it isn't an anomaly (no Beta-Blockers for sure as my resting HR is low 40's). I'm hesitant to do anything until I get all my results. One of the guys I ride with is super fit and takes Meds for his elevated BP which keeps it under control. Only risk factors I have are family history and high stress job. I'm currently looking at ways to reduce stress,decrease sodium levels, cut out the booze, increase potassium intake and rest in the short term.

Any experience is appreciated---the heart doc couldn't fathom that I had ridden my bike for 3 1/2 hours on both Sat and Sun of last weekend---so when they say it's OK I don't think they understand what "riding a bike" entails!


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i had to give up the drink. when all the dust settled, it turned out i have an allergy to alcohol. has bummed me out to no end.
Dude! Riding your bike will bring DOWN your BP. I relied on hard riding to get mine down (I also was borderline high) for quite awhile. Mine crossed over into frank hypertension, so now I'm on 5mg Norvasc, no more probs. FWIW, my hypertension I'm convinced came from eating Ibuprofen for too long, so if you're doing that, STOP NOW. I destroys your kidneys, if taken over a long time.Says so right on the bottle. Occasional, nonchronic use is fine.
i had borderline high as well, but part of it was my nervousness at being at the doc's office in the first place (they had a term for it, but i forget). if you can avoid meds, it seems like you hit on the key points already:

-stress reduction (are you an ibanker or sales)?---even a career change?
-sleep cycle
I used to have elevated BP before I started serious MTBing. Somewhere in the range of 140x90. Year and a half ago I stopped consuming alcohol completely, stopped eating fast food and food with huge amounts of sodium. Started cooking at home with lean meat(white nonfat pork, white chicken meat, turkey), oatmeal, grains, beans, sweet potato, vegetables, fish, whole grain bakery, olive oil. There is no sodium added to my meals, no animal fat. For drinks I use proper loose leaf white tea with occasional green and black, no sugar(can replace it with stevia), cocoa(pure powder, not grocery store mix) with fat free milk, and apple cider 50/50 with water(too sweet on its own). Get at least 7 hrs of sleep a day. And lots of MTBing(20hrs per week min). Right now my BP is always staying within 117x79 and I feel great. My resting heart rate is down, my anxiety attacks are gone. And at 30 years old I feel younger than when I was 23. Hope it helps you too.
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I can tell you from being a EMT/Firefighter go to your doctor and ask this question and not a forum. Coming here and asking medical questions is a bad idea, this way you can have the insurance from a Dr. It might take him some time to do research but this is what your paying him to do.
Already doing that. Thanks. Just looking for other experiences with similar situations. I've learned not to seek the net for primary care!
ptcutch said:
Already doing that. Thanks. Just looking for other experiences with similar situations. I've learned not to seek the net for primary care!
Think diet....

Changes in the diet etc...more salt, you get less tolerant of salt as you age.
Doggity said:
Dude! Riding your bike will bring DOWN your BP. I relied on hard riding to get mine down (I also was borderline high) for quite awhile.
This was my experience as well. I went from ~140 to ~120 from light exercise to serious biking (road & MTB). How lucky am I that riding = cure.

I found through trial & error that I was not sodium sensitive (does not effect my blood pressure).

Moments of stress elevate BP. I can't imagine what all day, high stress would do to a body over time.

Good luck to you, and let us know what you find, as I am 40 and may be in your shoes in a few years.

ptcutch last year I started having similar problems like you, mine was averaging 145ish/95ish most days. At the time I was eating poorly, drinking, and had extremely stressful job that usually I worked 10hrs/days. Throw in trying to ride 15-20 hours a week and I eventually got over-trained or burned out but had to take a while off the bike.

Got on meds for my blood pressure, got a new job, and started eating better, (cut out caffeine, redbulls, energy drinks, french fries, and sugary drinks). Over the last couple months my bp has gone down with the help of meds but I think the amounts of caffeine and sodium I have eliminated helped alot.
Thanks for the response Crosstown. I've discovered that I don't deal with my own medical issues well as I've given myself terrible anxiety (which I've never had) which has manifested in crazy BP readings! Never fully realized how much anxiety can affect your blood pressure (among other things) Talked to my family doc today and he's calmed me down and my wife's put away the home cuff. Your situation with working, training and enjoying the better things in life is the same issue I think I've run into--might be a little burnt out physically and professionally. I've been off my bike for 10 days (longest break in a long time) and re-balanced my life and feel better already (cut out caffeine, cut way back on sodium/increased potassium and took time for some meditation off the bike). Looking forward to some rides this weekend as I still hope to head to South Carolina in April with some buddies for a week of riding.
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Hey that sounds good ptcutch. I think your own a good path and once it's under control you'll be back to normal. Anxiety played a part in my high bp readings, sleep, eating/ drinking habits but that's a whole different story and alot more complex, but once I fully grasped how everything was snowballing together, it slowly worked itself out over time. Best of luck man.
PTC...I've had issues with elevated BP and anxiety, with it hitting a significant peak about 5 yrs ago, exacerbated in part by work.

I take an ace inhibitor, race, and train. Riding is the first line of defense I would say in managing BP. Diet and stress reduction techniques are important as well.

I did not want to take a beta blocker since they inhibit your threshold and tire you out.
I've heard yoga and pilates helps with hypertension. Helps you focus on breathing and balance. Might also want to take long easy rides and focus on your breathing and technique instead of a group ride where you are working to keep up. I tend to breathe shallowly, and could probably do better relaxing on the bike and finding a sweet spot. Good luck, take it easy and for a while don't try to outsprint that kitted out 19 year old dude....
I have a similar experience. Personally, I find that limiting sodium and alcohol intake to a bare minimum really helps to keep my BP at a healthy level. I ride, run and lift weights 3 -4 times per week. I'm the same age as you, was a very fit college athlete and am reasonably fit today.

Prepare your own meals as much as possible, and try to prepare them from scratch with fresh food. Add no salt or only the smallest sprinkle of salt until you get your BP under control. Bottled condiments like salad dressing, mayo, ketchup and mustard all contain a lot of sodium, so avoid those as well. Obviously, try to avoid fast food like the plague. If you eat at restaurants, ask the kitchen to cut out all salt so you can add your own.

Avoid excessive caffeine, which raises your BP a few points on it's own. It also interferes with sleep, and a lack of sleep will also raise your BP another few points. If you ride 11 hours a week in addition to a busy work schedule, it's very likely you are not resting or sleeping enough.

Finally, cut out all alcohol, at least until you get your BP under control. Alcohol makes your heart race and if you are not resting enough after training and work, will increase stress on your heart.

Also, instead of hard riding all the time, try going for long hikes or walks once a week with the wife. It breaks up the schedule and gives your head and body time to recover.

So, cut out excess sodium, caffeine and alcohol, sleep more, go for a walk and see if it all helps.
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