High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when resistance in your arteries causes your heart to work harder than normal.
This becomes dangerous over time when the increased pressure of your blood moving through your arteries stretches, weakens and damages your artery walls, which can eventually lead to a heart attack or stroke.
While chronic high blood pressure may need to be treated with drugs, alternative medicine offers several ways to help lower your blood pressure before it becomes chronic.
The links between your sense of smell and the memory and emotional centers of your brain have long been known and scientifically proven. A recent study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that short-term exposure to the essential oils most often used in aromatherapy for stress relief actually had a beneficial effect on lowering blood pressure.
Lavender, long known as a calming scent, is available in many different forms. Candles and essential oils seem to work the most effectively, but exposure must be limited to no more than 60 minutes at a time. After 60 minutes, according to the study, the essential oils start to have the opposite effect, raising blood pressure.
Relax in a quiet, dimly lit room and either light a lavender candle, use an essential oil warmer or hold a small vial of lavender essential oils 4 to 6 inches from your nose.
Do not apply pure essential oils directly to your skin. These can be diluted with non-volatile oils such as sunflower oil if you wish to apply them to your pulse points. Lean back, breathe deeply and relax. After one hour, blow out the candles, seal the vial or wash the essential oils off your skin.
Back in the day (the early caveman days), our bodies developed a system to help us cope with the sudden danger so likely to crop up when we all lived wild. When faced with stress, your body releases a flood of adrenaline giving you the hyper-focus and energy to decide in a split-second whether you need to run or defend yourself.
This is called the “fight or flight” response and even though most people in first world countries are far less likely to face truly dangerous situations in their lives, the adrenal system cannot actually tell the difference between a tiger leaping out for attack and a really long line at Starbucks. This constant release of adrenaline can lead to high blood pressure.
Meditation involves learning how to be still, to contemplate or focus on one thing and to breathe deeply and calmly. There are many different techniques for successful meditation, so you may have to try a few different ones until you find your best fit.
Contrary to popular culture, if you are more focused on the fact that you’re twisted up like a pretzel or you feel silly, it’s not the idea of meditation that is at fault. If you are uncomfortable for more than a few seconds, you’re probably trying a method that is not a good fit for you.
The simplest form of meditation is deep breathing. Simply relax, breath in deeply through your nose for a count of three, feeling your chest inflate and pull the air right down into your belly. Let the air slowly out through your mouth for a count of three. Think only about your breathing. Do this several times throughout the day.
Yoga is an ancient method for balancing mind, body and spirit. Think about the last time you stood up from your desk after a difficult, boring or frustrating task. You took in a big, deep breath and stretched, right? That natural impulse is the basis for the principles of yoga.
Many advanced postures, or asanas, may look like contortionism to you, but because yoga is about balance, the most effective way to use yoga to help lower your blood pressure is to start with the simplest poses.
The Corpse Pose, or Savasana, is the simplest relaxation pose used to help ease high blood pressure, though it can also be the most challenging. Lie on the floor or on a yoga mat, flat on your back. Relax your legs, letting your feet fall open. Relax your arms, palms up.
Your natural inclination might be to keep your arms at your sides, palms turned in or down, but the open, palms-up posture leads to deeper relaxation. Breathe deeply and try to clear your mind, concentrating only on relaxing every part of your body.
Practice one or more of these techniques at least every other day to help lower high blood pressure and help you deal more effectively with everyday stress.