022 Cycling Health and Wellness
Cycling Health and Wellness
Hypertension and cycling
Hypertension is defined as a blood pressure consistently greater than or
equal to 140 over 90 mm Hg. The disorder is common in persons over 40 years. It
is graded as mild, moderate or severe. Unchecked hypertension can eventually
result in a heart attack, heart failure or a stroke. Even mild, untreated
hypertension is detrimental to the person. Hereditary factors are important.
Extensive reviews on the modern treatment or approach to hypertension are
available. The common focus is to keep the blood pressure below 140 over 90.
Intolerance, because of side- effects of pills, is very common.
Can Hypertension affect the recreational cyclist?
Yes. Uncontrolled hypertension can produce an enlarged heart and result in
tiredness and fatigue. Coronary artery narrowing follows, resulting in angina
(chest discomfort). A heart attack can follow. Secondly, blood pressure pills
can have serious and nasty side effects and impact very severly on the
enthusiastic, keen and avid veteran cyclist. Life style and well- being can be
drastically effected by pills. Constant monitoring is needed and advice from a
health care professional. Pills may have to changed due to side- effects. Pills
cannot be dramatically stopped, as a rebound in pressure can occur with some
pills. Dangerously high levels can ensue with this irrational behaviour.
Is hypertension a risk factor for fatal heart disease?
Yes. Together with genetic factors, obesity, stress, sedentary life style,
hypercholesterolaemia and diabetes mellitus, hypertension is an important marker
for cardiovascular disease. It must be checked.
Tests the cyclist must undergo
|Chest X- ray: to exclude an enlarged heart|
|Blood tests including cholesterol (and subfractions such as LDC)|
|Blood glucose and kidney functions|
|Monitor blood pressure daily/ weekly for 4- 8 weeks to determine degree,
First line treatment for hypertension in the established veteran cyclist
Get clearance from your doctor to continue cycling
Determine other risk factors (diabetes, lipid elevation)
Make sure your heart is not enlarged, you do not have angina or experience an
Lose 5- 10 kg in weight over 4-8 weeks
Eat less. Become a vegetarian. Reduce redmeat intake- consider chicken or fish
Exclude pies, pastries, hamburgers, fast foods, excessive alcohol and braai's
Cycle train 4 times a week, but do not exceed 1 hr per day. Slow down if fatigue
occurs. DO NOT RIDE THROUGH CHEST PAIN OR ANGINA.
Supplement and drink 6 glasses of water daily. If possible stay exclusively on a
fruit or vegetable diet
Check BP reading twice a week. Perhaps the exercise and weight- loss have
helped? Pills could be now possibly avoided. Increase, moderately, the intake of
omega- 3 fatty acids, Vitamin E and Lecithin. Check cholesterol. Levels must
come down below 5 mmol/L
Coronary artery thrombosis is a danger. Over 40 years, half a Disprin per day is
indicated to reduce this risk. Make sure you do not suffer from heartburn or an
ulcer. It is pointless increasing the dose of Asprin.
Do cyclist get heart attacks?
Yes, but the benefits of regular aerobic exercise is not in dispute. Be
careful of angina. Excessive exertion or steep hill climbing (exhaustion) could
theoretically precipitate a heart attack during or after a long cycle tour such
as the Argus.
Which cyclists with hypertension are prone to a heart attack?
Obese, unfit cyclists
Individuals with large arterial plaques (atheroma). Also termed "culprit
Moderate to severe hypertension/ or poor control
Dehydration, exhausting cycle tours
Diabetes mellitus, poor control
Extensive or difuse atherosclerosis with heavy plaque formation in the coronary
Previous warning symptoms of anterior chest pain, squeezing feeling in the
throat, chest pain with radiation into an arm or the jaw.
Dangerous, unchecked rhythm disorder
Medications/ pills used to treat hypertension
Depending on the severity of hypertension one to three different types of pills
may be needed to stabilize the pressure. This could take months. Medications
|Diuretics (problems: weakness, cramps, electrolyte disturbance)|
|Ace inhibitors (problems: cough)|
|Beta- blockers (problems: fatigue, shortness of breath, insomnia)|
|Calcium channel blockers (problems: arthralgia)|
|Angiotensin receptor antagonists (problems: arthralgia, pharyngitis and