Nourish - Lowering High Blood Pressure Naturally | Lifestyle | Part 3
No. 1 – Exercise
As we discussed in part one, being inactive is linked to high blood pressure levels, so let’s start there. Exercise is an excellent first step to take to help control and reduce your blood pressure.
Regular physical activity actually makes your heart stronger, which means that it will pump blood through the body with more ease. If your heart doesn’t need to pump as hard to circulate the blood, the force on your arteries decreases. And the result? It’ll help lower your blood pressure – hurrah!
Not only does exercising help lower blood pressure via its heart health action, but it’s also fantastic to relieve stress. And we all have a good bout of that these days!
We should never underestimate the effect of stress on our blood pressure. Stress immediately generates adrenal hormones, which raise blood pressure as part of the fight or flight reaction. Exercise helps to lower this excess of adrenaline as well as the stress hormone cortisol that results from high levels of stress.
Since stress is another cause of high blood pressure, let us praise the fact that exercise is an excellent combat to stress. Furthermore, it’s shown time and time again to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. A big bonus in my opinion.
You can start small, say, taking the stairs instead of the lift. Try getting off the bus one stop early or tackling the garden. Don’t underestimate the activity of garden or housework!
Then start with a 10-minute brisk walk every morning and eventually bring it up to 20 or 30 minutes. How about going swimming once or twice a week or taking a yoga class?
If you’re particularly prone to extremely high blood pressure, it’s always best to get your doctor’s approval of any changes before embarking on a new exercises regime.
No. 2 – Practice Deep Breathing
Take a moment right now to observe your breath. Don’t attempt to change or alter its rhythm, simply notice it right now. How are you breathing?
Many of us have become shallow chest breathers, also known as thoracic breathers. Essentially, we inhale less breath into our lungs by breathing into our chest area rather than throughout the lungs via the diaphragm into our bellies. You may even notice that you tend to hold your breath.
Now take three deep breaths. You’ll notice your belly expands, as does your rib cage and shoulders. You may even feel the cold air racing into your lungs.
When we breathe in a shallow way, we actually cause stress in the body. If we breathe in this way consistently, our bodies remain in a constant state of stress. Unfortunately for us, this sets off the sympathetic nervous system, priming us for a fight or flight response.
Furthermore, shallow breathing is a precursor for cardiovascular issues. It actually increases blood pressure and heart rate.
The good news though is that taking longer controlled inhalations and exhalations helps to slow the heart rate down and decrease blood pressure.
Many turn to pharmaceuticals as their first option to try to lower high blood pressure, but deep breathing is an immediately accessible tool that takes just minutes to have a positive, calming impact.
In many cases, it helps to eliminate stress more effectively than synthetic drugs can. Additionally, breathing this way increases the amount of oxygen flowing to the brain and this increase in blood oxygen levels helps to improve our blood circulation.
Try this breathing technique every morning and/or evening for about 5 minutes a day. If you find yourself feeling stressed or notice you’re shallow breathing, take a break and do this breathing technique.
1. Find a comfortable seat, either sitting cross-legged on the floor, sitting on a cushion or upright in a chair with your feet firmly planted on the ground.
2. Take a few moments to just close your eyes and breathe normally.
3. When you’re ready, slowly take a deep breath in through your nose for 4 seconds.
4. Hold the breath for 2 seconds.
5. Slowly exhale through the mouth for 4 seconds.
6. Then, repeat this for another few cycles. You can set a gentle alarm to go off on your phone after 5 minutes.
After this time has passed, observe how you feel emotionally and physically for a few moments.
Repeat as necessary during the day.
Take notice during the day whilst you’re working, eating or going for a walk what your breath is doing. We don’t often notice something that we do unconsciously, but it’s such a powerful tool to ground us and release stress.
No. 3 – Find Ways to Truly Relax
Chronic stress is one of its most menacing underlying factors, which leads to high blood pressure.
As I mentioned earlier, when we are stressed, our body produces a surge of hormones that temporarily increase our blood pressure. Adrenaline causes our blood vessels to narrow and hearts to beat faster. Now, although it’s only a temporary elevation, if we are constantly bombarded with stress, it’s likely going to have an effect.
That’s why it’s so important to carve out some good relaxation time.
Of course, what I’ve just mentioned above is an excellent move towards that, and that’s exercise and deep breathing. Yoga might be your jam, but alternatively, you might let more steam off from boxing or running.
Meditation and mindfulness is another great way to relax. I wrote a couple of blog posts on that here.
Also, try to indulge a few hours a week in a hobby. Maybe it’s knitting, sewing, painting or pottery making… the choice is yours! So long as you feel calm and you’re relaxing, you’re on the right track.
Of course, we all get stressed from time to time. It’s a natural part of life! However, continual stress is a problem, and nipping it in the bud is the best thing to help make sure your blood pressure remains steady
No. 4 – Figure Out Your Stress Triggers
There are many things that can trigger our stress response. The ability to identify them is surprisingly beneficial in terms of managing your stress levels, and therefore your blood pressure.
Take some time this week to keep a journal of the days and times that you feel stressed. Additionally, scribble down the cause. E.g stuck in traffic going to work.
Of course, it’s natural that we’re all going to feel stressed at one point or another, but it is important to take a step back and notice if there are any unnecessary stresses sneaking their way into our lives.
Doing this exercise will hopefully give you some insight into what triggers your stress and then you can take the steps to tackle it.
Sometimes it’s something small, other times it’s things out of our control.
Common triggers arise from work, money, health, family, relationships, being hungry (yep!) and environment (e.g mess around your house or being stuck in traffic jam).
Identifying your triggers will be helpful to give you some food for thought and something to work on. Smaller things you can work on yourself with some breathing techniques for example, whereas larger issues that you identify can often be helped by somebody trained. For example, a marriage counsellor for relationship issues or an accountant for money stress.
Let’s take for example mess in the house. You can’t focus on work at your desk because it’s so cluttered and it stresses you out.
Set time aside to tidy it and find a place for everything, and then make sure to put everything back there after you finish at your desk. That way, next time it’s clear and ready for you.
Of course, not everything is within your control, and meditating won’t bring you in money to pay the bills, but it can help you calm down and make more rational or sensible decisions in a time of stress.
I hope today’s blog on Lowering High Blood Pressure Naturally with lifestyle shared some easy and natural ways to lower your stress and help you to take control of your blood pressure. Again, if you missed parts one and two, check them out here. For part four, click here.
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