Foundations for a resilient life

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Natural ways to control high blood pressure

About one-third of American adults have high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). To treat high blood pressure, the association recommends starting with lifestyle changes and then administering prescription medications to reduce readings to levels below 140/90 until age 80 and 150/90 for people older than age 80.

However, medication to treat high blood pressure may not have to be a patient’s second phase of treatment. There are natural ways to lower blood pressure that patients may not be aware of.

According to Dr. Rhett Brown, a family physician with Novant Health Midtown Family Medicine, high blood pressure has many contributing factors, including genetics, diet, lack of sleep, medications and drug interactions.

“Genetics can play a significant role in a patient’s blood pressure levels,” he said. “Unfortunately, despite a patient’s best efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle, he or she still may suffer from high blood pressure.”

Medications are helpful in managing high blood pressure, but Brown also encourages patients to use the four foundations for a resilient life: a good diet, regular exercise, seven to eight hours of good quality sleep daily and mindfulness practices.

“Yoga, tai chi, meditative prayer, self-hypnosis and even pet therapy have all shown to effectively lower a person’s blood pressure,” he said. “In fact, practicing a heart healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and getting a quality night’s rest, along with an active relaxation program, may be enough to manage a mild case of high blood pressure and avoid prescription medications.”

Extensive research has been done on the use of yoga and other forms of active relaxation techniques to lower blood pressure. Yoga is a mind-body therapy that reduces stress and offers numerous other health benefits. Research consistently demonstrates that yoga is effective in controlling blood glucose levels, weight and cholesterol levels – all contributors to high blood pressure.

Yoga can benefit people of all ages. In addition to traditional yoga, programs have been tailored to the senior population or those with flexibility problems. One program, known as the “silver yoga” program, consists of four phases: warm up using eight different poses, stretching, relaxation and meditation. Breathing exercises are incorporated throughout the program breathing exercises are incorporated.

Brown said that while these treatment options are highly effective it is important to maintain a consistent health regimen and frequently monitor your blood pressure.

“High blood pressure can be an asymptomatic disease, so you may not be aware that it has become elevated over time,” he said. “For patients with a history of high blood pressure, I recommend that they have their blood pressure checked frequently by their physician and either at home or at a nearby drugstore.”

If you experience chest discomfort, swelling of the feet or shortness of breath, this might be a sign that your blood pressure has become elevated. Check your blood pressure levels and consult your physician immediately.

Find additional wellness tips and heart healthy recipes at

How’s your heart health? Novant Health has launched a community-wide campaign called the 10,000 Healthy Hearts Challenge with a goal to educate 10,000 people about their heart health by 2018. Take the online heart health risk assessment, which analyzes cardiovascular risk factors, such as blood pressure, cigarette smoking, diabetes and body mass index. Then, tag five friends on social media using #NHHealthyHearts to spread the word. Once you accept the challenge, look for helpful wellness tips, recipe ideas and stress management reminders sent to your inbox to manage your heart health.

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