Hypertension and High blood pressure has become rampant in today’s world. It’s a global pandemic insidious to the health and lives of individuals irrespective of their race or gender. While humans evolved intellectually, the physiological responses of body to stress, diet and environmental factors have remained generally constant from homo sapiens to today’s human. Our diets, plagued with refined foods, high in salt contents and trans fat, stressful and hectic lifestyles, smoking and obesity have made us more prone to contracting high blood pressure than ever before.
Blood pressure itself is a function of cardiac output whilst Cardiac output is a function of heart rate (in beats per minute) and stroke volume (a measurement of how much blood is pumped out by the heart, in milliliters pumped per beat.)
From a medical standpoint, you have two blood pressure measurements recorded in an X/Y (X by Y) format where X is your systolic blood pressure measurement and Y is diastolic. Systolic measurement records the blood flow during the contracting phase of heart diastolic measurement records the flow of blood during the relaxing phase of heart as the heart muscle expands. Normal blood pressure is defined as having a systolic measurement of less than or equal to 120 mmHg, and a diastolic measurement of less than or equal to 80 mmHg. Anything above and beyond these figures mean you have high blood pressure and are on your way to a cocktail of ailments if you don’t take corrective measures.
What can high blood pressure do to you?
A lot actually. For starters, it can make your heart weak and more susceptible to heart attacks and strokes. High blood pressure puts the heart under immense strain, increasing the chances of it cramping. Similarly at high blood pressure, blood flows erratically through the body, increasing the risk of clot formation in turbulence, thereby causing strokes. So there’s an increase in myocardial wall stress, an increased demand for oxygen by heart as it has to work harder to pump blood across your body, you run the for a left ventricular hypertrophy (which we often hear by the name of heart enlargement, and not in a good way), and if this wasn’t enough, the damage to endothelium wall puts you at the risk of atherosclerosis. Besides the heart, an increased blood pressure puts undue stress on liver and kidneys as well, and high blood pressure is among the leading causes of chronic kidney disease.
What can you do to prevent high blood pressure?
There are multiple different ways to lower blood pressure, covered extensively by conventional and alternative medicine. Your general health practitioner will often prescribe diuretics, ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors, ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers), calcium antagonists, and beta blockers, in conjunction with dietary and lifestyle changes to manage high blood pressure. For those who of you who want to stay away from medications and circumscribe their health bills within limits, there are natural alternatives with proven efficacy:
Exercising increases both the anaerobic and aerobic capacity of the heart. Simply put, it trains your heart to work efficiently with less effort and less oxygen requirements. Exercise, with time also brings your basal heart rate down. This is the reason why athletes have a resting heart rate of 50 – 60 beats per minute while today’s adult generally has between 70-90 beats per minutes. A stronger heart therefore can pump more blood with less effort and decreases the strain on arteries, all the while reducing your blood pressure (Exercise brings down both the diastolic and systolic reading of blood pressure).
Mayo Clinic suggests that it takes an average of 3 months for you to notice the positive effects of exercise on lowering blood pressure, and it emphasizes that people should adopt regular exercising regimen for the rest of their lives.
You don’t need to become a gym rat to control high blood pressure. Just 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as running at low speeds, cycling, swimming or power walking can do the trick. If you feel like doing more, you can add weight training sessions to your workout regimen, or pilates and yoga if you feel like it.
You need to lose weight for your heart to work optimally. Obese people have high amounts of visceral fat, the kind that covers organs internally as well as high levels of circulating fat and triglycerides within blood vessels, which puts stress on heart and leads to formation of plaque and obstructions within the arteries. Hence, inducing high blood pressure.
There’s a simple formula to effective weight loss; 20 percent of it comes from exercise while a massive 80 percent from diet. To lose weight, it’s a no brainer that you need to modify your diet and do so on a permanent basis.
Not all diets are created equal when it comes to permanent weight loss and lowering blood pressure. However, low-carb based diet plans have proven to be more effective in promoting long term weight loss and controlling high blood pressure. Researcher William S. Yancy, Jr., MD, an associate professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center found low-carb diet plan to be able to lower blood pressure and reduce weight, more so than in patients who were put on orlistat drug for weight and blood pressure management.
Switch to a low-carb and low-sodium diet for synergistic effects. Eat more bananas (just not more than five a day) as the potassium in bananas help counteract the effects of high sodium in body, drink more water and you’ll find yourself managing high blood pressure without ever requiring any medication.
3. Consume Apple cider vinegar cocktail first thing in the morning
This elixir has its roots in Middle East. It will not only lower your blood pressure, but improve digestion, boost immunity, lower cholesterol and promote weight loss. What you do is to take half a cup of warm water and add a quarter cup apple cider vinegar (organic) and a quarter cup lemon juice to it. Add a teaspoon or two of honey to the mixture and drink this first thing in the morning regularly for eight weeks. Wait for 30 minutes and then have your breakfast. To quantify the results, get your blood glucose, lipid profile and blood pressure measurements taken before and after the eight works period. You’ll be surprised at the results!
4. Eat more Garlic
Garlic (allium sativum) originated in Asia. It’s medicinal part is the bulb which has a peculiar strong scent and taste. These characteristics of garlic exist due to its sulfur based complex compound known as Allicin.
Garlic has an all-rounding positive effect on heart health and reduces high blood pressure as an indirect consequence. According to a study by University of Berlin, it is the Allicin within garlic that removes plaque from within arterial walls and reverses atherosclerosis and clot formation within blood. This in turn clears up the arteries, and removes obstructions (plaque) which stresses and strains the heart muscle.
5. Add Turmeric To Your Diet
Turmeric contains a strong antioxidant called curcumin. Curcumin on its own has poor bioavailability but when it is mixed with bioperine, the main compound in black pepper, it’s bioavailability increases by 2000%. Due to Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects, it aids in blood cholesterol reduction, and keeps the blood vessels and arterial walls healthy by protecting cells from damage, ensuring smooth blood flow within the heart. Some studies have also discovered turmeric’s, rather curcumin in turmeric to dilate blood vessels and drastically bring both the blood pressure and heart rate down.
Turmeric is widely available in liquid extracts, as raw powder to be added to curries and cuisines and in capsules containing the powder. Holistic medicine practitioners from the National Health Advisory Institute recommend that adults take 400 to 600 mg of standardized curcumin powder 3 times daily.
6. De-Stress and Meditate More Often
Doing mindful meditation daily could help lower your risk of heart disease, or so suggests American Heart Association.
Meditation, especially mindful meditation is a practice that helps relax your mind, be at peace and remove stress and anxiety from your life, all through a set of breathing and relaxation exercises that are often accompanied by serene sounds.
When you are stressed or anxious, your body increases the production of Adrenaline and Cortisol. Cortisol, the stress hormone puts you in a state of focus and alertness while adrenaline fires up the body’s flight or fight response, putting it in a heightened state of perception, increasing the heart rate and blood pressure. This is the reason why you sweat when you’re anxious or stressed out. When you remain in this ‘flight or fight state’ for too long, it takes a toll on your health, and puts you at the risk of developing hypertension and heart disease.
For people with high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, meditation provides a natural route to de-stress and calmness. There are thousands of mobile applications, softwares and books on guided meditation, so you can easily meditate on your own without having to hire the services of a yogi or meditation practitioner. Find whatever works for you and meditate yourself to a good health.