Hypertension, also commonly called high blood pressure, is one of the most common results of excessive stress and irregular lifestyles. Over the years we have complicated our own lives by adding more and more pressure on ourselves. The ambition to climb up the ladder and get the corner office is not only stressful on its own, but causes a strain on family life and our health. Parenting, relationships with partners, friends and family, and personal achievements are no longer simple or straightforward. When the cortisol hormone increases, our peace of mind goes down, bringing about conditions like hypertension or high blood pressure.
How is Hypertension or blood pressure measured
Blood pressure is defined by the force of blood in your arteries and is measured by two numbers. The first number, called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats. The right pressure will vary from person to person. The American Heart Association considers 120/80 as the standard blood pressure limit. There is something called ‘Pre-hypertension’, which is when your blood pressure is between 120/80 and 140/90. Anything above 140/90 is defined as hypertension and is dangerous. However, some healthcare professionals will diagnose or warn you about Hypertension if your number reaches 130/80. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, today 1 in every 3 Americans have Hypertension.
What are the common causes of Hypertension
Stress and unhealthy lifestyle choices are the most common causes of Hypertension. Lack of physical activity, irregular eating and sleeping patterns, and an improper routine are common triggers. While it is an independent condition that is not caused by other illnesses, certain health conditions like diabetes and obesity can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure. Heart and kidney problems can also trigger high blood pressure. Sometimes, Hypertension can also happen during pregnancy. Smoking, excessive alcohol, and drug abuse also play a role here.
Symptoms of Hypertension
Unfortunately Hypertension does not have any warning signs or clear symptoms. Many people will not even know they have the condition. The only way to know is to get regular checkups done.
How can Hypertension affect the body
High blood pressure or Hypertension can affect the body in many ways. Stress being one of the most common causes makes the heart beat faster, and your blood vessels contract. This can impact the heart, increasing the risk of many heart problems. It can damage the arteries, reducing the blood flow and oxygen to the heart. The decreased blood flow can cause chest pain, called angina, heart attacks, heart failure, etc. It can also lead to stroke and brain conditions due to the lack of blood flow and oxygen to the brain.
How can yoga help manage Hypertension
Yoga is known to have a significant impact on reducing stress. This itself is one of the biggest factors that reduces the chances of developing high blood pressure. Yoga also helps you develop a healthier and more balanced routine and lifestyle. A study in 2009 showed that brisk walking, reducing salt intake, and practicing yoga can help people with high blood pressure manage their condition. Furthermore, yoga helps improve immunity and induces better blood flow, reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. It also helps regularize sleep habits and diet.
Breathwork or Pranayama to manage Hypertension
Breathing exercises that lower stress levels, balance the body and mind, release toxins and induce better blood flow are all good for Hypertension. A study conducted even found how practices like alternate nostril breathing reduce stress, and improve cardiovascular function, respiratory function, and overall well-being of the patients. Humming bee or Brahmari pranayama is also very soothing on the nerves and slows down abnormal heart rates. Anything that is very fast or increases heart rate like Bellows breathing (Bhastrika) should be avoided.
Yoga asanas for Hypertension
All the yoga asanas that activate the parasympathetic nervous system and stimulate the vagus nerve are good for Hypertension as well. You can also look at these asanas for stress relief. It is important to be very careful and practice asanas with slow, controlled movements. Practicing too fast might increase the heart rate. Focus on the breath by taking deep breaths to relax the body more. Practicing asanas will improve blood flow throughout the body - to all systems and organs. This rejuvenates the body and mind, improving heart rate. Life force or prana also improves, and when this energy is better, the balance in the body and mind is also maintained. Inversions where the head and heart are lowered towards the ground may not be safe and should ideally be avoided. This is why practicing with a teacher is very important. A teacher will guide as to what you should or should not practice based on your health reports.
How meditation and relaxation help manage Hypertension
Mindfulness and meditation is known to reduce elevated blood pressure. Studies have found transcendental meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction may produce clinically significant reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Meditation also reduces cortisol levels and unwanted chatter in the mind, improving focus and inner peace. There is a significant improvement in mindfulness throughout the day, which leads to better choices and a better lifestyle.
Make changes to your lifestyle
Start by making small changes to your lifestyle. Better habits and a disciplined, balanced lifestyle will keep stress levels lower. Prioritise your health by choosing to say yes to only what really matters. Eat right, sleep the appropriate amount and include yoga practices 3-4 times a week.
While yoga cannot cure Hypertension, it can improve your lifestyle and reduce your stress levels. This will help you manage hypertension and prevent further, serious health conditions.
In Shvasa’s live classes, our teachers will work with you to help you manage Hypertension in a holistic and sustained manner. We also have experts and counsellors who can speak to you to help you improve your lifestyle and routine.