Is it possible, do you think, that high blood pressure might be rooted partly in the mind or the spirit?
Is it possible that high blood pressure is caused by unresolved rage and anger?
These are not radical ideas, because the interaction of mind and body have been known to alternative therapists for a very long time. Even some more enlightened doctors will now admit that the mind plays massive role in diseases of the body.
And as if we didn’t know this already, a study in 2006 on more than 5000 African Americans showed that a sense of spirituality or an adherence to religious practice actually helped to help keep blood pressure under control. Certainly the study found that people who engaged in religious activities had lower levels of cortisol, which is, as you may already know, a marker of stress levels in the body.
So there is reasonable evidence to show that religious beliefs and spiritual activities are associated with lower blood pressure and lower hypertension.
In fact, Herbert Benson was a pioneer in the field of lifestyle and BP modification. As one author relates here, her blood pressure was starting to go, but was “caught” by virtue of the fact that the woman in question had a regular annual checkup.
By paying attention to diet and exercise, the person in question reduced her blood pressure to 130/80. This she considered to be too high, and so she engaged in a process of relaxation designed to lower her blood pressure.
She realized that her stress levels had increased in recent years, and she had also stopped using relaxation technique that had been her customary practice for many years. Herbert Benson was a Harvard Medical School graduate who studied the effects of relaxation on health are more than 35 years.
He found that a group of people who used a relaxation technique could lower their blood pressure more than a group who focused on dietary changes, weight loss and exercise.
Indeed, a third of the group who practiced relaxation techniques were able to stop taking a high blood pressure medication and could still maintain normal blood pressure !
Relaxation is a simple technique that is easy and quick to learn, giving very impressive results, and it behoves all of us who may experience hypertension or high blood pressure to investigate whether or not alternative therapies such as relaxation can help us.
Even better, the relaxation process is actually very simple. It involves simply sitting quietly and closing your eyes. You then relax the muscles of your body starting with your feet and working your way up to your head.
Using breathing techniques as well as relaxation techniques, and avoiding distracting thoughts, by repeating a mantra, and continuing for 20 minutes, you can establish a much lower level of blood pressure.
In another study, 31 patients who are receiving blood pressure medication were distributed into three groups and taught relaxation therapy, or given non-specific therapy, or continued with medical treatment. The aim was to to establish which was the most effective form of therapy for hypertension and increased blood pressure.
The non-specific therapy group actually spent the same amount of time with their therapists as those who were trained in relaxation techniques, but they were not given any specific therapeutic techniques. This was clearly some kind of “talking therapy”. All the participants had their blood pressure measured in a different location from the place in which they received treatment.
Interestingly enough, those who were taught relaxation therapy did in fact show a very significant reduction in blood pressure, and this applied to comparison with both the non-specific therapy and those people who were receiving medical treatment. Even six months after post-treatment, the relaxation group continued to show a significant reduction in blood pressure.
It’s important to remember that high blood pressure is a massive killer, causing both strokes and heart attacks – the primary causes of death in the United States. High blood pressure is defined as systolic blood pressure averaging 140 mmHg or greater and/or lower diastolic blood pressure averaging 90 mm of Hg or greater.
(The systolic blood pressure is when the heart contracts, and diastolic pressure’s when heart is at rest.)
Lifestyle Changes and Alternative Therapies
Interestingly enough over the past 30 years there have been hundreds of studies conducted on the effects of transcendental meditation on blood pressure.
Repeated studies have shown that it is extremely effective in reducing stress, and although there are many kinds of meditation, it is only transcendental meditation that has a major body of scientific evidence accumulated which demonstrates the impact it has on blood pressure. As you may know if you have practised it, TM ( transcendental meditation) involves the repetition of a mantra while seated in a comfortable position to 20 minutes twice a day.
Comparison of transcendental meditation with muscle relaxation as a means of reducing and controlling stress demonstrates that meditation has a significantly greater effect than progressive muscle relaxation. Indeed, TM reduces systolic blood pressure by more than 10 points and diastolic by more than 6.
This is a good demonstration that you have plenty of ways of controlling high blood pressure by using alternative therapies and lifestyle changes.
That also plenty of evidence to suggest that what you eat, your diet, can play massive role in whether or not you experience high blood pressure. So limit salt intake to no more than 2.5 g a day, cook vegetables with no no salt, avoid using salt in cooking, and avoid convenience foods which contain salt and sugar.
Also be aware that products such as breakfast cereals contain high levels of sodium – and did you know you can actually use a high potassium diet to reduce the levels of sodium in the body?