In today’s hectic lifestyle and busy schedule, we hear the term “high BP” very frequently. Along with diabetes, ‘blood pressure’ problem is emerging as a common health challenge in the fast and furious modern lifestyle. This problem is more accurately referred to as hypertension. But this word creates a bit of confusion for laymen since they associate this word with “increased tension” or anxiety which is not really the case. This post is aimed at highlighting some of the problems associated with this ailment, clearing some misconceptions and why I recommend yoga for reducing hypertension and high blood pressure.
What is Blood Pressure?
Blood Pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood. If one would have noticed blood pressure reading has two numbers. For example, if someone’s blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg, it means systolic pressure (the top number) is 120 mmHg and diastolic pressure (the bottom number) is 80 mmHg. Have you ever wondered what these numbers mean? Let me explain what it implies and why this knowledge is important for preventive health care.
Systolic Blood Pressure
When your heart beats, it pumps blood through the arteries to the rest of your body. This force creates pressure on the walls of the arteries. This is precisely what is referred to as systolic pressure.
A normal systolic pressure is a value of 120 mmHg or below. Any value above 120 and up to 139 mmHg is considered high. This range is often categorized as pre-hypertension. Even people with this level should be alert as they are at an increased risk of developing heart disease. A value of 140 mmHg or above on repeated measurements is considered to be hypertension or high blood pressure.
Diastolic Blood Pressure
Diastolic pressure is the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests in between beats. A value of 80 mmHg or lower is considered normal. A diastolic blood pressure between 80 and 89 is normal but higher than ideal. A value of 90 or higher, on repeated measurements, is considered to be hypertension or high blood pressure.
Signs and Symptoms
Hypertension is very rarely accompanied by any symptoms. It is usually identified through screening or when seeking medical attention for, any unrelated problem. People with high blood pressure may have headaches, dizziness, vertigo, altered vision or tinnitus (hissing in the ears), however, these symptoms are often vague and may be caused by anxiety also.
There is a misconception that people with this condition may have symptoms like nervousness, sweating or a headache. But the truth is hypertension is largely asymptomatic. If you wait for symptoms to alert you, then you are taking a dangerous chance with your life. Hypertension is often recognized as a “silent killer.”
Blood pressure is a characteristic of each individual, with significant inter-individual variation, much like height and weight. Hypertension is present in around 20-30% of the population.
Essential hypertension has a multi-factorial etiology
A majority of patients with hypertension have the primary elevation of blood pressure (i.e. cause not known – essential hypertension).
- Genetic factors: Blood pressure tends to run in families; children of hypertensive parents tend to have higher blood pressure than age-matched children of people with normal blood pressure
- Obesity: Fat people have higher blood pressures than thin people
- Alcohol Intake: Many studies have shown a close relationship between consumption of alcohol and blood pressure level.
- Sodium Intake: Populations with higher sodium intake have higher blood pressures than those with lower sodium intake. Studies have shown how the restriction of salt intake can have a beneficial effect on blood pressure in hypertensives.
- Stress: While acute pain or stress can raise blood pressure, the relationship between chronic stress and blood pressure is uncertain.
Secondary Hypertension is where blood pressure elevation is the result of a specific and potentially treatable cause.
Coronary artery disease and cerebrovascular disease are the most common cause of death, although hypertensive patients are also prone to renal failure and peripheral vascular disease. Hypertensives have a six-fold increase in stroke. There is a threefold increase in cardiac death. The peripheral arterial disease is twice as common.
A crucial step in the prevention and management of high blood pressure is to lead a healthy lifestyle. Lifestyle tips given below can help a great deal in tackling this problem.
- Weight loss if you are overweight or obese
- Avoidance of smoking
- Healthy diet (more fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, less saturated and total fat)
- Avoiding alcohol consumption
- Exercising regularly (especially cardiovascular exercise such as brisk walking for at least 30 minutes a day)
Reduction of the amount of sodium in the diet to less than 1500 mg a day if you have high blood pressure. Healthy adults should try to restrict their sodium intake to no more than 2300 mg a day.
Several studies have shown that yoga can be a very effective and non-invasive way of reducing high blood pressure. It is particularly effective in reducing the diastolic number. Following is the list of beneficial effects of Yoga in controlling Hypertension.
- Improves blood circulation in the body
- Strengthens the mind
- Detoxifies the body
- Helps in anger management
- Improves immunity
- Relaxes mind and body
- Improves oxidation to various organs of the body
Useful Yoga Poses
- Ardha Matsyendrasana
- Supta Vajrasana
However, as a note of caution, care should be maintained about the kind of asanas being practiced if a person is hypertensive. There are certain precautions and restrictions to be followed in order to avoid complications. People with high blood pressure should be extremely careful with inversion postures. When we invert the body in such a way that the heart is above the level of our head. then there is a tendency of blood to pool in our head. This pooling of blood is even more pronounced when our lower body and legs are also lifted above the level of our head. When we perform any posture or exercise, the oxygen requirement of the tissues and muscles increase; in order to meet that, the heart rate and blood flow increase which contributes to greater pooling of blood in the cranial blood vessels. Under normal circumstances, the body is well adapted to handling the pooling of blood and pressure changes in the cranial vessels. However, if the blood pressure stays elevated even at resting states, as in the case of hypertensive people, there is an increased risk of damage to cranial blood vessels during inversion postures.
Postures to avoid or practice with caution under expert supervision:
Thus, with the right kind of diet and lifestyle, blood pressure control is eminently achievable. If one has to take medications to keep the B.P in check, then he or she should be very regular with the treatment regime. Periodic monitoring of B.P either at home or at a clinic is recommended to monitor responses and keep the blood pressure under control. Preventive measures have a greater role in blood pressure control. This is where yoga comes in handy as its role in preventive healthcare is being widely recognized all over the world. So, eating healthy and regular exercise can do a yeoman service to people suffering from hypertension.
If you like this post, and have any question or would like to give a feedback, please leave a comment below and I’ll try to respond at the earliest.
Carthik shares his Healthy Life journey. Do visit regularly to get updated on his progress and tips for your own journey to live healthily. If you like what he does and if you have a passion and want to share it too, then Click here to learn how to share what you love – on your website!