Q: I have marginal hypertension, about 140/95. I don’t smoke, drink, or eat salty foods. I ride 100-400 miles a week. Medication lowers my blood pressure but also reduces my max heart rate by 20 beats. Now I can’t keep up on group rides. Will this medication always limit me? — John G.
COACH FRED: Although you didn’t mention what medication you’re taking, I suspect it’s a beta blocker, which reduces max heart rate. A much better choice for athletes is Zestril or a similar ACE inhibitor.
Most riders who take Zestril have no side effects, but it still lowers blood pressure to normal limits. I know several riders whose blood pressure is only marginally high. They take half the suggested daily dose, cutting a 5-mg pill in half.
Of course, check with your physician before altering your medication. But be aware that he or she may not understand the importance of max heart rate during exercise. Be ready to explain why it matters to you.