New Guidelines for High Blood Pressure Put More at Risk, Emphasize Natural Solutions

By: 
Malinda Gosvig Rees

Last week thirty million Americans woke up to discover that they had high blood pressure. No, it wasn’t all those buttery Thanksgiving biscuits and stuffing. In fact, it wasn’t even that these Americans’ blood pressure had changed—but the guidelines for what counts as high blood pressure had.

The new guidelines categorize anyone with a blood pressure over 130/80 mmHg as having high blood pressure. As a result, the estimated number of people with high blood pressure in the U.S. alone jumped overnight from around 72 million to about 103 million Americans, almost one out of every two adults.

What Prompted the New Guidelines on High Blood Pressure

Why the dramatic change? The reason that the American Heart Association (AHA) revised the guidelines was based on the results of a 2015 study—a study whose duration was cut short because of how dramatic its effects were.

The study, called SPRINT, looked at over 9000 adults with high blood pressure. It found that adults with blood pressure well under 140/90 could gain significant benefits by lowering their blood pressure.

In fact, those who lowered their blood pressure reduced their risk of heart failure, stroke, heart attack, and death from heart problems by 25%. It was these findings that prompted the AHA to place stage 1 hypertension as anything from 130 to 139 systolic (top number) or 80 to 89 diastolic (bottom number).

New Guidelines Place Emphasis on Natural Remedies for High Blood Pressure

The key thing to understand about the new guidelines is that if you fall into the new stage 1 category of blood pressure above 130/80, your doctors is much more likely to give you a prescription for lifestyle changes rather than blood pressure-lowering medication.

In fact, medication is not recommended unless other risk factors are present, such as diabetes or a previous heart attack or stroke. Instead, doctors are recommending lifestyle medicine to control high blood pressure naturally.

In an interview with a Stanford SCOPE Magazine, researcher Randall Stafford, MD, PhD, explained: “We live in environments that . . . make healthy choices difficult. Surrounded by advertising promises and hype, consumers themselves want an easy fix to their problems, rather than the hard work required to live a healthier lifestyle. In the end, however, the substantial benefits can make the hard work worth it.”

Yoga as a Natural Remedy for High Blood Pressure

Physical exercise, diet, and stress management are three of the biggest players in lowering high blood pressure naturally. And yoga has been shown to help significantly with two out of these three factors. In fact, many people report that yoga also affects our ability to naturally eat more healthy food, because it creates greater attunement with the body’s signals of hunger and satiety.

Yoga offers a form of exercise for high blood pressure that improves physical health not just by “working out” the body, but habituating it to a state of relaxation and ultimately, resilience. Over time, the practice of yoga allows us to be calmer not just on the mat, but off the mat was well.

Yoga’s mind-body approach to high blood pressure exercise uniquely calms the nervous system, reducing the stress that correlates with increased heart rate and hypertension. Additionally, yoga’s emphasis on specific styles of breathing align with physician recommendations for breathing during exercise to lower high blood pressure.

By advocating for lifestyle changes now, medical professionals are hoping we can prevent more serious cardiovascular issues down the road.

Speaking of the current health care process he’s hoping to change, Stafford explained, “This system is really a ‘sick care’ system that is organized around dealing with acute, short-term problems rather than issues that need continued attention over time.”

But if we start controlling our high blood pressure naturally now, we can save our health in the long run.

That said, it’s important to note that natural remedies for high blood pressure aren’t just for those with stage 1 hypertension: those who are already taking medication for more advanced stages of high blood pressure can still benefit from dietary changes, and the stress reduction, greater fitness, and improved health that yoga provides.

Those with high blood pressure—especially those with stage 2 and above—will want to follow specific yoga for high blood pressure guidelines to ensure safety during their practice.

With patience and a little bit of time each day, it is possible to control high blood pressure naturally and set yourself up to live a longer, healthier life.

 

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