Around 75 million Americans suffer from high blood pressure (hypertension). That’s 1 in 3 adults!
Both women and men are affected, although at different times in life.
Men are often hit with high blood pressure in their 40’s, while women are most affected after age 65.
Sadly, of the millions of people who have high blood pressure, only about half of them have it under control.
High blood pressure is called “the silent killer” since many people aren’t even aware they have it.
High blood pressure symptoms are not usually severe unless there is a cardiac emergency. They can be easily confused with other problems.
Some signs to watch for that you could have high blood pressure are: frequent headaches, dizziness, ringing in the ears, red spots in the eyes, blurred vision, or shortness of breath.
Ideal blood pressure stays below 120 (systolic-the pressure exerted when the heart pumps) over 80 (diastolic-the pressure when the heart rests between beats).
If the reading goes over 140/90, hypertension may be diagnosed. If the diastolic (or bottom) number goes over 104, it is a sign of severe hypertension. Always ask your doctor if you’re unsure.
If you have cardiac warning signs like chest pain or pressure, shortness of breath, pain or discomfort in one or both arms, difficulty breathing, nausea, or breaking out in a cold sweat, seek out medical attention right away.
While high blood pressure can be related to diet, obesity, genetics or diabetes, stress also plays a role.
The role of stress in high blood pressure is complex. Stress can both cause blood pressure to rise and worsen pre-existing high blood pressure.
It is not known whether stress by itself causes long-term high blood pressure. Still, evidence shows it’s problematic in a variety of serious ways.
Here’s what happens when you’re under stress:
Although spikes in blood pressure from a stressful situation are temporary, they can still damage the heart, blood vessels, and kidneys.
Furthermore, chronic stress often leads to damaging coping measures like overeating, smoking, or drinking too much alcohol – known contributors to high blood pressure.
Along with healthy diet, physical exercise is a proven technique to get high blood pressure under control.
Exercise strengthens the heart, allowing it to pump blood more easily. This reduces stress on the arteries and lowers blood pressure.
Good exercise choices include: light jogging, bike riding, swimming, walking, aerobics, dancing, and strength training. Aim for 30-60 minutes daily, 5 days a week.
If you already have high blood pressure, work with your doctor or trainer to develop the right program for your needs.
While some people do need medication for high blood pressure, many are able to control it with diet and exercise alone.
Early research finds meditation for 20 minutes, twice daily is as effective as drug therapy to lower blood pressure.
Today, the American Heart Association recommends transcendental meditation as a natural way to lower high blood pressure. I find a daily mindfulness practice is also stress relieving.
Mindfulness helps you to find a calm focus, and can decrease strong emotional reactions to stress. Want to learn more? Learn about Mindfulness.
Herbs like Passionflower, Hawthorn, and Garlic ease stress, encourage healthy blood pressure, and promote cardiovascular health.
Passionflower is a powerful nervine herb for stressed nerves, anxiety, and insomnia. It’s especially good to normalize blood pressure spikes related to stress.
Hawthorn strengthens the entire cardiovascular system. It tones the heart muscle, calms minor palpitations, and strengthens capillary structure.
Garlic is a potent remedy for arterial health and blood pressure. Studies find the sulfur compound, allicin, in garlic can decrease blood pressure in just 1-3 months.
1-4 cloves daily is the suggested dosage. If that’s too much garlic for you, consider an odor-free, high quality garlic supplement from the health food store.
If you’re at risk for high blood pressure (most adults over 40 are), embrace natural stress management therapies. Natural therapies can keep your stress low and blood pressure balanced.
If you’re unsure whether you have high blood pressure, be vigilant about testing. High blood pressure can be serious, increasing your risk for heart attack or stroke.
Work with your doctor if you have high stress or other risk factors. Home blood pressure monitors are widely available and easy to use. Many pharmacies also offer free blood pressure monitoring for more support.