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Hiking with Hypertension

Hello everyone! I'm wondering if anyone else has a question like this but here goes! Overall I know that hiking (any exercise really) is really good for folks with high blood pressure but I'm wondering about how you might balance the need for replenishing salt with the fact that I really have to avoid a high-salt diet (i.e. most dehydrated pre-packaged food is out. 2000mg is my limit on a regular ole day stuck in the office living a non-outdoorsy life). I've had this discussion with my doctor already but they seemed pretty skeptical about how rigorous even just a day hike would be (I'm a sweater, folks) let alone backpacking. I should probably consult with another health professional but just wondering how folks in the community might deal with that balancing act, especially if you are training for your first backpacking adventure, like me! Thanks 😁

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11 Replies

Hmm that is a tough one.  I would guess unsalted, raw nuts would be a good choice.  Oatmeal could be good if you bring a stove and water filter.  Fresh produce like bananas may last depending on the length of your hike.  Obviously take an prescription med with you and bring some extra in a separate waterproof container.  I would certainly consult a physician about this because they know your exact levels and meds.  You can also get your blood pressure checked right after a long workout to know what happens to you.  I know when I am dehydrated some of my vitals appear out of whack on labs, but aren't in a dangerous spot.

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one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

That's a good idea I'm not really collecting "data" on myself enough after workouts specifically. Thanks!

I'm not knowledgeable about this, but would it make a difference if you kept to a low sodium diet and either used or carried "just in case" a hydration supplement like Drip Drop or Nuun? Just throwing that out there because I don't really know. I do know that now that I drink one every day, my mental alertness seems to have improved and I don't seem to get that worn out feeling as often.

 

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

I've never heard of those I'll have to check them out, thanks! I've definitely gotten fuzzy in the middle of a trek before and usually my quick-fixes are too sugar heavy. 

My wife has high blood pressure, though she is very fit (runs daily, 5 to 9 miles). Her solution is to get electrolytes and avoid the NaCl combo that can push up her BP. Thus, she drinks coconut water (no sugar), eats bananas, and takes magnesium and potassium in capsule form. She has also used Pedialyte powder, which does not have the sodium (Na) that can cause high BP

I too am a sweater, and although I do not have high BP, I encounter problems with muscle cramps while on long hikes. My fix is to take dehydrated bananas (one per day), and a magnesium and potassium supplement while on trial. 

Cheers -

 

I'm no doctor, but unless you have real, current, personal data about needing to 'replenish salt' lost from sweating I think you are solving the wrong problem. Staying hydrated with just plain water is the best thing my wife and I have found to do. I occasionally get a feeling I call Bonking, which tells me my blood sugar is low, a simple snack (cliff bars is my preference, but really anything will work) is usually enough to fix this unless I let it go too long which means I need a actual meal.

We don't have any health issues or restricted diets, but if your doctor does not seem worried, I would start out by staying hydrated with water. 

I am an M.D.

We—myself included—need to be careful about giving advice to you for a couple of different reasons: 1.) If you are on anti-hypertensives, then diuretics will mean different things for your electrolyte balance than drugs that work in different ways. 2.) I’m also working on the assumption none of us have taken your medical history or examined you!

There are many people with well-controlled hypertension who participate in vigorous physical activity. To do so safely really requires an honest collaboration with your primary care physician.

If you have the means to do so, then I recommend you obtain some data during your next hike. Specifically, I recommend you record your heart rate, mileage, speed, duration, and elevation gained. Take this information back to your primary care doctor and show her/him exactly what your hikes look like. It may also be important to explain how often you hike. Armed with this information your primary care doctor will have a much better idea as to what your physical stressors are on the trail and how that may impact your medication(s), diet, and hydration plan.

Good luck, be careful, and be safe!

 

 

@TDWilson 

This is absolutely the best advice for here and any health related forums!  We are all unique in our medical needs and I am very grateful for the medical professionals in my life.  I have a benign genetic condition that raise my blood calcium, but if I hadn't ask the Dr why and I instead asked a forum "Why is my blood calcium high?" the most common response would probably be I had parathyroid issues or eat too much dairy, which both are incorrect.  For this and other reasons my Dr isn't WebMD.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.
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@TDWilson @Diesseldorf 

Stipulated as fact that checking in with a trusted physician is the right first step, especially when you have a pre-existing condition. OP did that:

@agraciouspearl wrote:

... I've had this discussion with my doctor already but they seemed pretty skeptical about how rigorous even just a day hike would be (I'm a sweater, folks) let alone backpacking. I should probably consult with another health professional ...


 There are plenty of Doctors who are overworked and miss things - there is also plenty of bad information floating around on the internet about salt pills and other outdated information. Having a real conversation with data with a long term trusted MD is a better idea in my book than doctor shopping to find someone who echoes a belief set. (Which I'm not suggesting OP is doing, but happens all the time.)