When a character in a movie or TV show grows angry or otherwise upset, the other characters will often caution, “Watch your blood pressure!” While this is usually played for humor, hypertension, or high blood pressure, is no laughing matter. It is associated with many serious health conditions, and sometimes the value is unstable. Fortunately, there are strategies for managing high blood pressure, some of which can be done at home.
What Is High Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is a measure of how hard the heart must work to pump the body’s blood combined with the amount of blood the heart is pumping. The dual number, which looks like a fraction, describes the heart’s overall progress. The top number, the systolic pressure, describes the pressure in the arteries as the heart beats. The diastolic blood pressure, the bottom number, measures the arteries’ pressure when the heart rests between beats.
Blood pressure rises when blood volumes being pumped increase or the arteries narrow. Hypertension, problematically high blood pressure, is defined when either systolic pressure exceeds 130 mmHg or diastolic pressure is greater than 80 mmHg, or both, and unfortunately even small numerical changes such as 115 to 135 can double the risk of a cardiovascular event as the heart must work harder to pump blood.
The Dangers of Hypertension
Hypertension is clearly associated with a number of serious health conditions, including heart attack and stroke. It also significantly increases the risks of diseases of the kidney, brain, and other other parts of the body. It is called a “silent killer” because most people afflicted with it are unaware of the problem since the symptoms are mild or nonexistent. For this reason, it is critical for people to have their blood pressure levels monitored regularly.
An estimated 15 million deaths worldwide annually are the result of dangerously high blood pressure. Unfortunately, for all its severity, high blood pressure is a very common condition. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 1.28 billion adults worldwide between the ages of 30 and 79 have hypertension. Approximately two-thirds of these individuals live in low- and middle-income countries where regular screening and proper and immediate treatment are not always available.
What Factors Affect Blood Pressure Levels?
Some contributing factors to high blood pressure are genetic, but a great deal more are based on lifestyle choices. Those looking to monitor their blood pressure levels should be very mindful about what they put in their bodies. Tobacco, alcohol, saturated fats, and large doses of salt are associated with increased risk for hypertension.
Blood pressure levels can increase with age, stress levels, and weight. Obesity especially has a well-established link with high blood pressure. Eating responsibly and partaking of nutrient-rich foods will help keep blood pressure levels at appropriate levels. Exercising regularly is also a good way to keep levels down.
Managing Blood Pressure Levels with Daily Exercise
Hypertension does not usually require complicated or cutting-edge medical treatment to manage. The most common treatment prescribed includes pharmacological intervention in addition to lifestyle modifications. However, the risk of negative side effects is present with the introduction of any drug regimen, and those worried about pharmacological methods will be pleased to know there are more natural alternatives.
High blood pressure can be mitigated by a few simple stretches at home. In coordination with your primary care physician, try these exercises at home to lower your blood pressure to manageable levels. To keep track of your progress, measure and record your blood pressure levels before starting the program. This will allow you to have an accurate representation of the changes that take place.
Strengthen the Diaphragm
The diaphragm is an arched muscle that separates the abdomen from the chest. It is an integral part of breathing, contracting to increase lung capacity. Regulating breath and strengthening the diaphragm can relieve pressure on the heart and bring blood pressure levels to regularity by slowing the heart rate and dilating blood vessels.
The exercise is very simple: inhale deeply until your lungs are at 75% of their maximum capacity then exhale completely. For best results, repeat this exercise 30 times, and do so six days per week for six weeks. A 2019 study found that this modulated breathing reduced average systolic levels by 10 mmHG.
Isometric exercise utilizes muscle contraction without visible movement in the angle of a joint. Such exercise can include squeezing a soft foam ball in each hand at 30% full effort for two minutes. Repeat this action four times with brief rests in between sets. Doing so can reduce systolic pressures by almost 12.5 mmHg and diastolic pressures by 14.9 mmHg.
Stretching can increase the flexibility of the femoral and brachial arteries, minimizing the effort necessary to pump blood through them. Using a doorway to deepen a reverse warrior pose is an excellent full-body stretch. Hold onto a door jamb with one hand and stretch the other arm out while the legs are widely but stably apart. Hold the pose for 45 seconds and repeat five times, alternating sides.