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Reduce your blood pressure, naturally

Reduce your blood pressure, naturally

Those yearning to avoid medicines can gain substantial benefits by following a combination of a healthy diet, yoga and lifestyle changes
 Natural ways to manage blood pressure
Photo by Anantha Subramanyam K / Happiest Health

Forty-year-old Shashi K was forced to rely on an unhealthy diet over the past four years because of his hectic work schedule and other professional commitments. No wonder the manager with a private company in Bengaluru gained weight (about 30kg).

But that wasn’t all. Three months ago, Shashi’s unhealthy lifestyle caught up with him further: he was diagnosed with hypertension, obesity and gastroenteritis.

“I never had a meal on time, and I was always busy with work,” says Shashi. “I would eat junk food for the first two meals of the day at least. In the last two years, I picked up the habit of drinking alcohol and that added more to my weight gain. Adding to my unhealthy lifestyle, I had a lot of work pressure and stress, which resulted in hypertension.”

To bring his health back on track, Shashi decided to alter his lifestyle by following a strict regimen of healthy diet, exercise and yoga. And in three months he managed to bring his blood pressure (BP) under control and also lose weight.

“I did not want to rely on medicines and was looking for natural ways to become fit,” he says. “I changed my habits and stopped drinking alcohol for a while. I started practising yoga and followed a strict diet. I reduced drinking coffee and salt. I started eating only home-cooked food with more green leafy vegetables. With good exercise and yoga, I managed to control my BP and even lost 10kg in the last three months.”

Healthy plan to lower BP naturally

Dr Babina NM, chief medical officer, Jindal Naturecure Institute, Bengaluru, says people believe they can manage hypertension if they eat less salt, but they also need to avoid eating bread, pizzas, sandwiches, cold cuts, cured meats, soups, tacos, chips, popcorn, chicken, cheese and eggs. Packaged salads are also not healthy and one needs to check on the sodium content in food.

Dr Babina says a healthy diet plan — along with reduced salt and saturated fat intake — is essential for people with hypertension. Giving an example of making a healthy diet choice to keep hypertension and related conditions at bay, she says pasta or white-flour products can be replaced with those made with whole grains.

“Using monounsaturated oils like canola or olive oil for cooking, and inclusion of legumes, seeds or nuts in our daily diet will be very healthy and helpful to keep BP under control,” she says. “Consuming fresh fruits and vegetables — since they are rich sources of fibre, potassium, magnesium and more — will also be beneficial.”

But, she says, people having kidney issues should keep an eye on their potassium intake and make diet alterations accordingly.

Lifestyle also a factor

 Jenil Dholakia, a Mumbai-based holistic yoga and well-being coach, says hypertension and high BP are nothing but lifestyle diseases. “So, to manage these conditions, one must pay attention to the daily routine and make the necessary lifestyle changes,” she says. “Stress is the biggest culprit for this disorder. When in stress, our sympathetic nervous system is activated, which is your ‘fight, flight and freeze’ mode. While some amount of stress is needed for our survival, we end up taking stress about anything and everything by overthinking, being anxious and having wrong expectations. Due to this, we put a lot of burden on the heart, which results in increased BP.”

Dholakia says if we can learn how to manage stress in our life, we will be able to address the root cause of high BP. Apart from stress, an excessively sedentary lifestyle, lack of sleep, erratic eating times and a diet heavy on processed food should be avoided to reduce BP.

How to control high BP naturally?

Dr Babina says the following foods help to lower BP:

  • Garlic — an antibiotic food that helps the smooth muscles relax and the blood vessels dilate. These changes can reduce hypertension
  • Watermelon — contains an amino acid called citrulline that may help to manage high BP
  • Oats — contain a type of fibre called beta-glucan, which may reduce blood cholesterol levels
  • Leafy green vegetables — such as cabbage, spinach and mustard greens are rich in nitrates, which help to manage BP

Dr Babina says salt- or any sodium-rich food should be avoided. Drinks like coffee, tea, carbonated and so-called energy drinks should also be avoided since they can cause short-term spikes in BP. Alcohol also causes a spike in BP and is responsible for other health issues such as heart issues and stroke.

Benefits of yoga

Yoga asanas usually involve breathing deeply and consciously while synchronizing body movements. Dr Babina says they can help keep BP in check naturally, primarily by relieving stress. Shishuasana (child pose), paschimottanasana (forward bend pose), virasana (hero pose), badhakonasana (butterfly pose) and ardha matsyendrasana (sitting half spinal twist) can prove highly beneficial, especially for those suffering from resistant hypertension.

Dholakia says restorative yoga poses like supta baddha konasana (reclined goddess pose), uttanasana (standing forward bend pose), viparita karani (legs up wall pose), supta veerasana (reclined hero pose) and shavasana (corpse pose) are extremely relaxing and should be practised regularly. “Cooling pranayamas like sheetali (cooling breath), sheetkari (hissing breath) and bhramari (bee breath) not only help in regulating the flow of breath, but also help in activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the ‘rest, digest and relax’ mode,” she says.

Explaining the benefits of cooling pranayama, she says it calms the mind, reduces BP, activates the parasympathetic nervous system, brings you to the present moment, slows down the heart rate, releases stress and anxiety, and helps to sleep better.

Dholakia says adapting a daily meditation practice of sitting in silence for 10 minutes in the morning can work wonders for mental health and leave a positive impact on the person. Deep back bending postures or inversions should possibly be avoided or only practised under the guidance of a yoga therapist.

Poses to practise

  • Supta baddha konasana: Start by sitting down, bending your knees inwards and bringing the soles of your feet together to come into the baddha konasana. Then, very gently, taking support of your hands, lie down on your back. You can support your thighs by placing either yoga blocks or a cushion under each thigh. Stay there for five minutes while focusing on deep belly breathing.
  • Uttanasana: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Inhale, stretch your hands up and lengthen your spine. As you exhale, hinge from the hip and fold forward. Either your palm should touch the floor or you can even rest it anywhere on your leg depending upon your ability. With every exhale, feel the body surrendering to gravity.
  • Viparita karani: Lie down on your back close to a wall. Slide your hips closer to the wall and slide your legs up on the wall. Try and get as close as possible to the wall with your hips, ensuring that the entire back is on the floor and both your legs are resting on the wall, forming a 90-degree shape. The legs can be relaxed here; stay for a couple of minutes in this pose.
  • Supta virasana: Start in a kneeling-down position, keeping your feet wide apart. Sit down and rest your buttocks between the feet and ensure that your knees feel comfortable. Taking support of your palms and elbow, slowly lie down on your back. Don’t let the knees flare apart and see that the lower back feels comfortable. Stay for ten deep breaths.
  • Shavasana: Lie down on your back, keeping your feet and hand apart comfortably. Scan through the entire body to ensure that you are not holding tension anywhere. Let the whole body relax from the tips of the toe to the top of the head. Once comfortable, stay as still as possible in the pose for a few minutes.

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