Blood Pressure Daily Solutions

Breathe In. Breathe Out.

It sounds almost too simple to be true.

A method of bringing down blood pressure without any drugs or side effects.

It’s so easily available it’s free and can be done anywhere in the world by people of all age groups and genders.

Let’s look at how breathing can immediately lower blood pressure.

The Mechanisms Behind Breathing

All living beings require respiration as this allows us to circulate oxygenated blood around our bodies for optimal functioning whilst getting rid of carbon dioxide.

Our lungs and our hearts work together to achieve this goal.

The lungs are responsible for re-oxygenating our blood whilst our heart and blood vessels pump this fresh blood around our bodies.

Muscles near the lungs help expand and contract lungs to help us breathe well.

These include:

• Diaphragm
• Intercostal muscles
• Abdominal muscles
• Muscles around the neck and collarbone

Most of the time, we aren’t even aware of our own breathing (unless it’s you have a cold or asthma!)

This is thanks to a respiratory control center at the base of your brain which signals to your breathing muscles when to contract and relax.

However, we can over-ride this automatic function any time by changing how fast we breathe.

Emotions like stress, anxiety, anger and grief can also affect your breathing.

How Breathing Can Lower Blood Pressure

Breathing techniques have been practised by ancient cultures since the Dawn of Civilization.

We only have to look at Tai Chi or Yoga to see how breath is connected to health.

According to Jeffrey Rossman PhD, this is because deep breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing allows us to directly stimulate the 10th cranial nerve – the vagus nerve.

This vagus nerve is one of 12 nerve pairs that arise directly from the brain to innervate the rest of the body, controlling things like balance, hearing, sight, taste and sound.

The vagus nerve is responsible for parasympathetic control of the heart, lungs, and digestive tract.

Put simply, the vagus nerve is responsible for helping you relax and digest food.

New research suggests that it can even play a role in decreasing chronic pain and inflammation.

Fun Fact: In 1921, a German scientist Otto Loewi discovered that stimulating the vagus nerve resulted in a reduced heart rate as a substance named Vagusstoff (German for “Vagus Substance”) was released.

This “Vagus Substance” was later renamed acetylcholine and became the first neurotransmitter ever identified!

Think about this scenario:

You’re rushing around feeling stressed at work.

You haven’t had time to eat so you grab whatever is within arm’s reach and scoff it down at your desk, hardly paying attention to the texture or flavour.

You know it isn’t the healthiest option but you just have so much on.

Your work day ends and you’re now stuck in traffic and you can feel your heart beat racing as your frustrations rise.

Finally, you’re at home and you can breathe.

Oh wait, there’s housework to do, and of course, you need to spend some time with your family.

Dinner is slightly better than lunch but you’re still by no means relaxed.

You end up going to bed feeling full and bloated, knowing you’re going to wake up at some point with a raging case of heartburn.

And that scenario covers the role of the vagus nerve.

Let’s Breathe

We’ve explored why breathing is important and how it works so let’s start breathing already.

Let’s start off with a basic diaphragmatic breath sequence.

1. The easiest way to do this is to lie down with your face up and knees bent so that your feet are flat on the floor.
2. Place your hands palm down on your abdomen just under your rib cage.
3. Slowly inhale on a count of 4 and notice as your hands rise with your abdomen. You should also notice that your rib cage will rise slightly and expand to the side. This is a good sign as it means your lungs are expanding to their fullest capacity.
4. Hold your breath whilst counting to 4 again
5. Slowly exhale whilst counting to 4. You should feel your hands lower.

Practice this form of breathing at least twice a day for 2 minutes and you will notice all kinds of positive changes including better posture, improved sleep, improved focus and concentration and of course, lower blood pressure.

References
https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/how-lungs-work
https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/stress-raising-your-blood-pressure-take-a-deep-breath-201602159168
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306987706001666
https://www.healthcentral.com/article/why-breathing-helps-us-relax
https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/the-athletes-way/201607/vagus-nerve-stimulation-dramatically-reduces-inflammation

A Time and Place for Everything

Being organised isn’t a skill everyone is born with but it is a skill everyone should have.

Being organised reflects a level of respect not just for yourself but for those around you with regards to time management.

Time spent with family and friends is precious and in today’s modern and increasingly hectic world, this rare slice of peace can do more good for your health than any plethora of pills.

Why Be Organised

Look around at your workplace or bedroom.

Take stock of where things are.

How many items you have?

How are things placed?

Are they clean?

Are they dusty?

Do you see empty spaces?

Is there a filing system in place?

Think of your physical environment as a manifestation for what’s going on inside you.

The more clutter you have externally, the more clutter you will have internally in terms of stress.

Interestingly, there have been studies that suggest increased clutter correlates to increased intake of unhealthy food, especially in women.

From a practical view, the more cluttered a space, the harder it is to focus on tasks at hand as distractions seem to come at you from all angles.

The more distractions around us, the more time we waste and the more we stress when deadlines come around.

Start Small

Looking at Asian cultures in particular, children are taught from a very young age how to clean.

This is the first step in being an independent adult and having life skills as well as teaching them how to be a contributing member of society that respects the environment they are in.

Being organised doesn’t have to be painful.

Let’s start with your wardrobe.

Give yourself a time limit of 2 hours to clear out your wardrobe.

Create piles as you sort your clothes into piles:

• Clothes that you like and wear regularly
• Special occasion clothes
• Clothes by season
• Clothes for work / weekends

Anything that doesn’t fit into a pile that you create should be donated.

Repeat the same process for jewelry, makeup, shoes and bags

Moving Forward

Once you get the hang of organising your personal belonging look to personal care.

• Go through your medicines cabinet and discard anything that is past its expiry date
• Ensure you have a ready, fully stocked first aid kit in your home, car and work space
• If you’re feeling particularly on point, do a first aid training course
• Create annual check ups with your dentist, optician and doctor (if you can, schedule a fasting blood test to create good baseline values
• Set up 15 minutes a day where you can stretch out – it’s important that you get to know your body and where it hurts
• Create daily health routines that are non-negotiable such as brushing your teeth twice a day after meals and ensuring you have at least 1.5 litres of water to drink
• Create weekly routines of health that may include meditation or time outs for creative endeavours such as writing, painting, drawing and music
• Create monthly routines for social events such as time for friends and family allowing yourself a decent amount of time for travel

Little Bits, Often

It’s easy to slip into old bad habits, the trick is to replace one old habit with a new one and stick with it until that new habit becomes automatic.

Keep on top of clutter by doing daily tidy ups at the end of the day, ensuring laundry is folded and put away.

Write things down or put things into your phone as a reminder.

When you slip up, relax and do some deep breathing and then focus on what the most important task is at hand and get stuck into it.

You’ll soon learn that you have excellent time management and organisational skills leaving you with plenty of time to get tasks done!

Eat to Live and Live to Eat

We all know that food is fuel for our bodies and that we should be eating at regular intervals because it helps us maintain a healthy metabolism, regular bowel habits and weight control.

But sometimes knowing what to do and actually doing it are two very different things.

Ask 10 people what they think constitutes a good diet and you’re going to get 10 different answers.

Food is such a personal experience and humans have adapted to eat foods that were locally available to us.

For example, a traditional Japanese diet consists of carbohydrates in the form of rice and protein in the form of fish which also contains high amounts of cardioprotective fats.

Similarly, a traditional hunter -gatherer diet as seen in the Indigenous Australian diet would consist of all manner of season flora and fauna.

What Does a Good Diet Look Like

Despite cultural differences, nutritional elements that are essential for human growth are obtained from food.

Bearing in mind we all have different nutritional needs based on age, gender, health and genetic history, the following is based on a daily diet of 2000 calories for a grown adult.

The above list is by no means a complete nutritional guide!

There are many more trace minerals such as manganese, boron, silica and chromium that we need in smaller amounts.

When planning daily meals, it’s a good idea to match foods to nutritional needs and what is seasonally available.

A healthy diet should include a huge variety of different vegetables and fruits and at least 6 cups of water.

Putting It Together: A Typical Food Diary

As a general rule, avoid packaged and processed foods that are going to be high in flavours, preservatives and colours.

Obtain extra flavour from herbs and spices that are going to increase mineral and nutritional intake!

Always aim to have good quality proteins, fats and complex carbohydrates with every meal.

Meal times are also important – it takes around 3 hours to digest a meal so try to allow your body time to process one meal before it has to start breaking down the next.

It’s completely normal and natural to allow your body to feel a little hungry before you next eat.

Breakfast:

It’s important to actually eat breakfast every day.

Too many people are simply knocking back a coffee as they run out the door.

Take the time to sit down and eat your meal properly.

Good breakfast options might include a combination of:

• oats and bran based cereals for fiber content
• fruit and yoghurt for calcium, protein and vitamin content
• eggs and vegetables on wholemeal toast for protein, vegetables and complex carbohydrate intake

Lunch:

The middle of the day is the best time to consume complex carbohydrates as this will allow your body time to burn them up.

Their slow release of glucose will also keep you feeling full, especially if you have a good source of protein with that.

Some good lunch options might include:

• broths and soups with beans / meat for mineral content, protein and fats
• wholemeal sandwich or wrap with meat (chicken, turkey, ham, beef) and salad
• sushi rolls for carbohydrates, protein and the seaweed wrap is a great source of iodine
• leftovers from dinner

Dinner:

A good time to eat a little lighter, especially if you will be sleeping soon after!

• grilled miso (fermented foods are great!) chicken or fish and salad or vegetables
• buckwheat noodles with chicken and vegetables in a broth
• roasted vegetables (try roasting kale to form kale chips)
• vegetarian bakes with small amounts of cheese for protein

Move It or Lose It

This is a no brainer.

Exercise does not have to be grueling gym sessions or boot-camp torture sessions.

Once upon a time, we didn’t have cars and so we walked or cycled from Point A to Point B and you know what?

We were all healthier for it.

The modern lifestyle is practically geared towards developing cardiovascular disease so if you want to reverse hypertension, channel your (grand)parents!

Exercise and Hypertension

According to a 2003 Clinical Review, the current exercise prescription for the treatment of hypertension is “cardiovascular mode for 20 – 60 minutes, 3 – 5 days per week at 40 – 70% of maximum oxygen uptake”.

Depending on diastolic blood pressure, resistance exercise could also be included but only if safe to do so.

If we average this out, you should be aiming for 40 minutes of cardiovascular exercise 4 days a week at 55% of your maximum oxygen uptake.

This might include brisk walking, swimming, biking, elliptical machines or climbing lots of stairs!

The key is finding the workout you enjoy (or hate the least) and committing to it.

Remember that you need to be performing it at 55% of your maximum oxygen uptake so if you’re going to be really tracking your progress you may want to invest in a heart rate monitor.

Where Do I Start?

You don’t need to sign up for expensive gym fees to get in shape.

If this is going to be your first foray into exercise since you were in high school, it’s a good idea to start off slowly and gently – aim for routine and consistency before worrying about things like your maximum oxygen uptake.

Another reason to start slowly is age.

Unfortunately, most people who are diagnosed with hypertension tend to be a little older and as a result have other health issues such as arthritis.

There’s absolutely no point in exercising for your heart, only to find your joints are inflamed or you’ve put your back out.

A good routine might be to stretch in the mornings (before breakfast) using yoga or pilates for 10 minutes before embarking on a 20 minute moderate walk.

This will ensure your muscles are warmed up and your taking care of flexibility and core strength as well as your heart.

Once you’re up and running (ha!) look at challenging yourself by increasing the length of your work to 40 minutes and changing intensity levels every few minutes.

For example, on a 40-minute walk, try and power walk for 30 seconds then slow back down.

Repeat this twice during the 40-minute walk.

What About HIIT?

For those of us who aren’t fluent in gym speak, HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training.

This refers to doing short bursts of high intensity cardiovascular work (about 30 seconds) followed by periods of less intensity.

Now that you’ve got the hang of interval work, try your hand at a higher level of intensity by alternating 30 seconds of high intensity with 2 minutes of moderate intensity for 3 minutes.

According to exercise physiologists HIIT is gaining popularity as it allows for faster results.

However, this is not something that should be attempted if you’re a beginner or suffering from severe cardiovascular disease.

Instead, stick to the regular 40 minutes of exercise (regardless off maximum oxygen uptake) until you feel comfortable to move forward or get your doctor’s advice.

Everyday Activity

Don’t forget about daily activity too – things like carrying groceries and housework are great ways to incorporate cardiovascular exercise.

You can start by parking your car a little further away from the shops and power walking to and from the shops.

Make a list of groceries that you need and get through that list as quick as you can.

Not only will you save time, you’ll be less tempted to make idle purchases (your bank balance will thank you).

Around the house, vacuuming and mopping are great for cardiovascular exercise.

So is cleaning the windows.

All that extra motion (be careful of your posture) results in a cleaner house and burnt calories.

Gardening is also a great form of cardiovascular exercise – sweeping and mowing the lawn will give you a great work out.

If in doubt, channel your inner child! Remember how much fun it was to jump on a trampoline?

Or see how high you could go on a swing?

If daily adult work outs and housework gets tedious, mix it up and just have fun!

Have a look at council parks where you live.

There are some areas that have adult play equipment for this very reason.

It’s a great way to exercise and meet new people.

Who knows?

Your heart could get a work out of a whole other kind!

A Word of Caution

Again, be careful of your limits and if you know you’re just starting out, spread your activity levels throughout the week so that you don’t do too much in one day – for example, if you know you’re going to be doing the lawn, don’t do a long walk with interval training.

Good luck and get moving!

Sleep

What if there was a natural cure to help lower blood pressure?

This cure had no ill side effects, could be employed by any age, any gender and it was completely free.

Even better, it was something that everyone did every day in the comfort of their own homes… or beds.

It should come as absolutely no surprise that good quality sleep is restorative for both body and mind and new research shows that it may be a key intervention for the prevention and treatment of hypertension.

Sleep and Hypertension: The Mechanics of Hormones

So how does sleep help to lower blood pressure?

Well, your nervous system (which is controlled by the brain and runs through your spinal cord) is made up of two halves:

1. Parasympathetic Nervous System
2. Sympathetic Nervous System

The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for resting and digesting.

In other words, this is the side of the nervous system that we should be tapping into to reduce our blood pressure.

In contrast, the sympathetic nervous system is in control of our ability to remain alert and preparing us to fight or flee from dangerous situations.

When we sleep, there is a decrease in blood pressure which lowers cardiovascular risk.

This is further enhanced by how long we stay asleep.

A 2010 study by Calhoun and Harding found that sleeping for shorter spans, particularly during middle age was associated with hypertension.

During sleep, our brain cycles through REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM sleep cycles.

During non-rapid eye movement sleep, it was noted that arterial blood pressure and heart rate decreased compared REM periods suggesting that there was a minimum number of hours that would prove to be beneficial for the treatment of hypertension.

The magic number, according to the Mayo Clinic, is 6 hours of uninterrupted good quality sleep at night time.

Observational sleep studies have suggested that sleeping helps regulate stress hormones in the blood allowing the nervous system to remain balanced and healthy.

Regular sleep debt adds up and can impact hypertension over longer periods.

Sleep and Sleep Apnoea

Sleep apnoea refers to a medical condition in which breathing starts and stops during sleep.

This may result in poor quality sleep and feeling tired throughout the day.

Sleep apnoea can be tested at sleep clinics where oxygen flow is monitored.

Quite often, if someone is overweight, sleep apnoea will also be present with hypertension.

This is because the excess body mass impacts the ability of the lungs and places extra pressure on the heart when lying down.

Good Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene doesn’t refer to how clean you are when you go to sleep – although, let’s be honest, that wouldn’t hurt either!

Instead, it refers to the routines and practices you do before sleep to ensure that you have good quality sleep every night.

Before we look at even sleeping, ensure that your sleep environment sets the mood for rest and relaxation.

For example:

  • Is your bedroom cluttered
  • Is your bed / mattress comfortable and supportive
  • Check your pillows for the right height
  • Check the temperature, ideally you want the room to be slightly cool but not cold (all the better to snuggle under the covers)
  • Is the environment noisy
  • Ensure all tech gadgets are out of reach – lots of studies have confirmed that looking at the mobile phones / tablets and electronic screens which emit blue lights will make it harder for you to sleep
  • Ensure that you allow at least 2 hours between your last meal and when you sleep (obviously, no caffeine if you want good quality sleep)

Before you get into bed, make a note of how you feel physically and mentally.

Are you actually prepared for sleep? See if you can create a routine that allows you to function on autopilot as your body and mind wind down for rest.

That might mean brushing your teeth and laying out clothes for the next day or doing 20 minutes of meditation or gentle stretching before getting into bed.

Insomnia

If you’ve tried all of the above and you’re still finding it hard to catch some zz’s, it’s time to take things up a notch.

Herbal teas can be great at gently calming and relaxing you before sleep.

Herbs such as chamomile, valerian, kava, hops, passionflower and lemon balm have all been used singly or in combination.

Check out natural sources of melatonin (helps to regulate the sleep cycle) like cherries, warm milk or even chocolate.

Yes. This does mean that the old folk remedy of hot chocolate for sleep has some truth to it.

Magnesium and B vitamins might also be worth looking into if you find that your stress levels are impacting your ability to sleep – even better, they have been shown to be useful in the treatment of bruxism (grinding your teeth at night).

What are you waiting for?

Go sleep!

Laugh Your Way To Health

In 1971 an amazing doctor named Patch Adams wrote a lifechanging paper that would later become the basis of what is now known as the Gesundheit Institute.

Interested in whole systems thinking, Dr Adams and his wife created a pilot hospital model that was ground breaking because it integrated laughter and all other healing modalities into conventional medical practice.

The results were so incredible, Dr Adams’s life was turned into a movie with the late Robin Williams playing him.

Not the first, and certainly not the last, the study of humour has been around since Aristotle and Plato.

Neuroscientists today pose questions around how one acquires humour and how humour may elicit laughter.

From a health perspective, laughter has always been shown to have positive effects as it’s contagious joy serves as a social glue, bonding people together.

Not Just Placebo

Humour has always been a coping mechanism, a way of distracting oneself (or others) from stress and pain.

In one study which saw patients attend a 90 minute weekly laughter clinic, a decrease in blood pressure was shown both for short term as well as long term suggesting that recalling funny events of the past still had the ability to lower blood pressure.

Proving that the old adage “laughter is the best medicine” still rings true, new research is proving that mirthful laughter (real belly-aching-ab-workout-laughing not just “lol”-ing) can also lower catecholamine production and lower inflammatory cytokines resulting in cardiovascular protection.

Even better it has been shown in crease “good” HDL cholesterol!

Backing this up are the results of a 2013 Japanese Geronotological Evaluation Study that showed that daily laughter had positive effects on depression and weight as well as hypertension.

That’s Just Not Funny

Given that humour is such a personal trait, it’s not surprising that different people find different things hilarious.

From slap stick comedy, physical humour, toilet humour and naughty jokes to schadenfreude, the trick to a good laugh depends entirely on you.

(For those of you unfamiliar with schadenfreude, it’s pleasure derived by someone from another person’s expense – like watching someone on their phone walk into a wall. Mean…. Sure… but definitely funny!)

On that note, it was fascinating to see that people who identified as being Type A (particularly hard working, driven and motivated people) were associated not only with increased risk of heart disease but that they also were less likely to experience laughter or surprise during daily activities or social interactions.

Finding The Funny

It’s all well and good to tell people to laugh, but if you’re a Type A or someone who just doesn’t know how to have a giggle, let’s look at some ideas and tips.

  1. Make new friends – remember humour is a personality trait so you may need to expose yourself (NO! NOT LIKE THAT!!) to new people
  2. Look at things from a different perspective – typos can be a source of great joy. Juxtaposition or words, contrast and double entendre can also elicit quick giggles
  3. Breathe your way through anger and frustration – if you’re someone who is quick to anger, you’re already tensing for a confrontation, instead you want to be a little more “neutral”
  4. Get on the internet – a quick search for “Funny Typos” will elicit lots of results. Failing that, check out sites like 9gag for comics and memes that will brighten your day
  5. Funny movies – depending on your sense of humour movies like Dodgeball or American Pie will have you either rolling in stitches or rolling your eyes

The science is clear – laughter definitely does have a place in the healing arts and unlike many other treatments for hypertension, it’s completely safe and contagious in the best way.

Cry Yourself Calm

Have you ever been so angry, so incredibly frustrated that you notice tears are running down your face?

And after you finish crying, you somehow feel calmer and more in control?

Crying from anger, isn’t unusual at all. In fact, there are lots of studies that support the idea that crying is healthy.

The notion that crying is a choice or a sign of weakness is no longer holding up to the overwhelming scientific evidence that shows shedding tears is an important physiological reaction to stress and therefore important in managing hypertension.

Why Do We Cry

Most of us associate crying with babies, extreme physical or emotional pain or sad movies.

It’s been suggested that crying has a special role to play in balancing our moods as it helps provide a physical outlet for stress.

But not all tears are equal.

Photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher put dried tears from different situations under the microscope and revealed that different kinds of tears contain different molecules.

(For those of you who are interested, check out her series The Topography of Tears.)

She discovered three kinds of tears:

  1. Emotional tears – otherwise known as psychic tears, are tears caused by extreme emotions such as happiness and sadness. Under the microscope, each emotion produces very different looking tears.
  2. Basal tears – these are designed to keep your corneas lubricated, every time you blink, these tears which contain oils and mucous secretions are “washed” over the eye to prevent dry eyes.
  3. Reflex tears – these tears are produced in response to stimulus such onions, tear gas or smoke.

Despite the differences in crying, the physical sense of relief we get after shedding a few tears is largely the same.

This was backed up by researchers from the University of Tilburn in the Netherlands who conducted a study that measured people’s moods after watching sad and emotionally charged films.

Of the 60 participants, 28 had admitted to crying during the movie and felt that their moods were even better 90 minutes after the movie had finished suggesting that benefits of crying could be felt in the long term.

Women were shown to be more prone to shedding emotional tears, this is unsurprising given that emotional tears have high levels of proteins, minerals and hormones.

By tearing up, the body can reduce its level of manganese (high levels have been associated with anxiety, irritability and even aggression).

Crying and Hypertension

Given the benefits of crying, researchers at the University of South Florida suggested that “weeping therapy” may be a useful form of treatment for the emotionally distant.

By encouraging a healthy stress response, blood pressure and pulse will also lower.

Crying is most common in women over 60 who suffer from hypertension.

It’s still unclear why, but it may be the result of co-morbidities such as hormonal changes (menopause) or the increased risk of experiencing grief due to the loss of friends or loved ones.

The Best Time To Cry

Obviously, there are some unwanted physical side effects of a good cry, like puffy red eyes and lots of snot!

So, if you’re needing to blow off a little emotional steam, try these tips:

  1. Plan in advance – plan your cry session around big work meetings if you can
  2. Avoid people or let them know – if you want to avoid distressing your nearest and dearest you might want to wait till they’ve gone to bed or left the house, otherwise, just let them know and they might even join you!
  3. Get in the mood – pick out your favourite movie or even those feel-good stories that we all see on the internet
  4. Get it out of your system and move on – try not to linger or dwell on negative emotions after your cry session

Barefoot Basics

Considering how connected we are today, it’s amazing how utterly disconnected we really are.

It seems like a paradox yet consider this: thanks to the rise of technology, we can see what our friends and family are up to at any given point in time yet at no other point in time have we ever experienced such rates of anxiety and depression.

As we know these are key factors for the development of hypertension, so let’s go back to (barefoot) basics.

Engaging with natural therapies does not always mean having to take a plethora of pills.

True naturopathy lies in making conscious choices to be a part of nature each day.

Garden Therapy

Tending to a garden provides endless positive outcomes.

From the physical exercise and exposure to fresh and sunlight to the provisions of fresh produce, cultivating the land has been a source of enjoyment and income.

But what happens if you take that one step further and incorporate a sense of aesthetic into the creation of your garden? Well, you end up with a healing garden.

Whilst this sounds like some new age idea, the truth is that it’s very old – think of Asian cultures that cultivate peace – Zen, whilst meditating against a backdrop of utter serenity.

From Monastic gardens, cactus gardens to these Zen gardens, the innate ability to connect with nature is intrinsically healing.

By dragging our faces away from screens and back to nature we can reduce stress levels by reducing negative emotions and effectively holding attention and interest in our immediate surrounds as nature appeals to all our sense and is highly interactive.

The Japanese have taken this one step further with “Forest Bathing” or “Shinrin-yoku” which simply involves a person visiting a natural area and walking around.

The body of research that supports the health benefits is solid: Many trees release chemicals that support our immune system, whilst being surrounded by an oxygen rich environment has clear benefits for reducing blood pressure and stress whilst improving mood and creativity.

Regular practitioners have also noted increased ability to focus and better energy and sleep.

There really is no right or wrong way to get back to nature.

Even if you live in an apartment block or spend most of your daylight hours in an office building, take the opportunity to walk through parks or set up your own little green area.

Cacti and a window sill herb garden are great places to start.

Having orchids indoors are also a fantastic way to brighten up your space and bring some nature indoors.

Sea Changes and Earthing

If you’re closer to the sea than you are the forest, fear not!

Walking along the beach has also been shown to be hugely beneficial for those suffering with hypertension.

The fresh sea air and the resistance of sand resulted in a cardiovascular workout whilst the environment provided a source of stress release for the participants of the study.

Following the walk, participants showed improved blood oxygenation and pulse rates.

Walking barefoot also enabled participants to ground themselves.

Humans are incredibly fascinating – we are a mix of chemical and electrical potential and being able to walk barefoot on the earth’s surface allows us to form an electrical circuit with the earth.

When we have skin contact with the earth’s surface, we absorb free electrons that can “mop up” free radicals.

With regards to hypertension, a pilot study done in 2013 demonstrated how participants were grounded for 2 hours and their blood was observed before and after the grounding.

Each of the blood samples was then exposed to an electrical field and observed.

Those participants who had been grounded showed that their blood was nearly 3 times less likely to not form clumps.

If you’re going to try grounding, make sure you choose a spot that is free of broken glass and other potential hazards.

Maybe set up an area that has some sand, pebbles, fresh lawn and running water.

Sweat It Out

Think of our northern counterparts for this one!

In Sweden and Finland, the idea of sweating out toxins is taken as completely normal.

They’re not alone – from the hot natural spas of Japan to the sweat lodges of Native Americans, there’s a lot to be said about these ancient purification techniques.

For those wanting to lower blood pressure – keep your hydrotherapy sessions short (ideally around 10 – 15 minutes) depending on the heat of the water.

If in doubt, please check with your physician and do not attempt to lower an acute attack of hypertension by using a sauna or spa.

The point of this article was to hopefully inspire you to just get back out into nature, do a bushwalk or a beach walk or go swimming.

Wherever you look, you are surrounded by nature and science is backing up what we already know – being surrounded by nature has limitless healing potential.

Pet Therapy

Whether it’s constant loyal companionship, enforced exercise or simply the comfort of stroking soft warm fur, there’s a lot to be said for pet therapy as a way to reduce hypertension.

Humans are not naturally solitary creatures, we have evolved to rely on others (including other species) for survival.

Dog Therapy

Most people might associate canine therapy with guide dogs for the visually impaired, but there’s so much more that our canine friends are capable of.

From detecting cancers to warning us of impending epileptic seizures or low blood sugar levels, a dog’s keen sense of smell can be a fantastic indicator of health.

If that wasn’t good enough, they’re great for snuggling on cold winter days and will always be happy to see you!

In a study conducted in 1988, researchers Vormbrok and Grossberg demonstrated that blood pressure levels dropped when participants were petting a dog suggesting that this “pet effect” was worth further study.

Fast forward a few years and in 2018, another study aimed to evaluate the effect of pet ownership on blood pressure in response to mental stress compared to the use of an ACE inhibitor (Lisinopril at 20mg/d).

The results were even more positive: whilst the ACE inhibitor was able to lower blood pressure readings, the participants still noted that their mental stress levels were unchanged.

In comparison, those participants who were engaged with their pets showed not only lowered blood pressure but decreased mental stress.

As far as natural therapies go, this is clear cut – being engaged with your pet in a positive way not only lowers blood pressure but addresses causative risk factors such as stress.

Apart from the immediate benefits of stroking your beloved pooch’s fur, there are other long-term benefits, especially for the elderly.

By relieving social isolation and boredom, cognitive health has also shown to be improved.

In epidemiological studies, those owners who walked their dogs also were shown to have lower complications with cardiovascular disease.

Cat Therapy

Not much of a dog fan?

That’s ok – much of the research associated with the “pet effect” applies to cat owners as well.

The very presence of an interactive, dependent being has been shown to be cardioprotective.

The only downside with cat therapy is that cat owners don’t have the same level of physical activity as their dog owner counterparts, presumably because not many cat owners have to take that cat’s for a walk.

Bird Therapy

Short on space and time?

Consider getting a bird. In a study of 144 elderly people in Italy, individuals who cared for a singular bird had significantly better scores for psychological symptoms.

The elderly residents of the nursing home demonstrated reduced behavioural disturbance and demented subjects had more social behaviours in the presence of the animal.

Another unique positive of bird ownership is the improvement of verbal behaviour.

Birds capable of mimicking human speech can hold “conversations” with their owners, providing another aspect of social interaction.

Fish Therapy

There’s something so very calming about watching beautiful tropical fish glide through clear azure water.

It’s almost hypnotic to watch them as they dart and dance through the coral and sea greens.

If you can’t snorkel or scuba dive on a regular basis then maybe investing in a fish tank might be up your alley.

Whilst fish aren’t as interactive as other pets, the visual pleasure they provide still has an incredible effect on blood pressure and pulse.

Even better, the colour therapy they provide will help brighten your day.

This isn’t exactly ground-breaking.

Dentists have been in on this knowledge for years.

Ever seen Finding Nemo?

Dentists have installed fish tanks in their waiting to calm down patients before they face the drill.

There is a catch though, in one study that had fish tanks placed in an aged care facility, those residents who had access to viewing the fish tanks saw an increase in weight by 1.65 lb between three months before the tanks and four months after the tanks were placed.

Researchers from the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth University as well as the University of Exeter demonstrated that even looking at an empty tank with rocks and seaweed was able to lower heart rate by 3%, when fish were added, this increased to 7%. Interestingly, the more fish (and the increased variety of fish) helped to hold people’s attention for longer and helped to improve moods.

So there you have it, it doesn’t matter what your non-human bestie is, they’re going to help your mood and your heart just by being with you.

Just remember that this love and attention goes both ways.

Animals depend on us for their health needs too, so that means lots of good quality food, fresh water and space to do whatever it is they do!

Music Therapy

Who doesn’t feel better after belting out a power ballad in the shower or channelling their inner rock god(des) in the car as their stuck in traffic?

Music therapy has always been an intrinsic part of healing throughout ancient cultures and modern man is no different.

The Healing Power of Sound

Our ancient ancestors knew the power of sound could be a formidable asset to health and across the globe they used all kinds of sounds to bring peace, improve mental health and relieve pain.

The earliest form of music relied purely on our voices.

Chanting, (singing or speaking sounds using a limited range of pitch) is often used as part of meditation and religious ceremonies.

Popular in Buddhism, Native American traditions, Hinduism and Catholicism (Gregorian chants), chants offer a sense of calm purpose through their unique ability to tap into our innate sense of pitch and rhythm.

Perhaps it is their repetitious nature and the regulation of breath combined with the power and intent of words that allows our conscious mind to “take a back seat” that allows chanting to be so effective.

Offsetting their often-repetitious nature, religious ceremonies often include the use of bells and drums, enabling us to further connect with our primal ancestors.

Chants help to express devotion, gratitude and even compassion in daily live, helping us to relieve stress and monitor our breathing.

Today, English mantras often take the form of affirmations – a sentence that is repeated numerous times daily to bring a conscious change in our thought patterns.

It isn’t just the power of our voices that can stimulate healing effects.

Apart from our primal instincts to connect with rhythm and beat, there have been other instruments specifically developed for improving our consciousness.

A great example are Himalayan singing bowls, a study in 2014 demonstrated that the participants had significantly lower systolic blood pressure after using the bowls in directed relaxation session.

In a more recent study in 2017, Himalayan singing bowls were also shown to be able to reduce tension, anger, fatigue and depressed moods reinforcing the importance of mindfulness in preventing cardiovascular disease.

Thanks to modern technology, we now know that sound is carried through the air in waves and we can use specific waves or frequencies.

A great example of this is using binaural beats (the differences in two frequencies) – these are perceived by parts of the brain that then “tune in”, resulting in alpha brain waves and a state of calm.

Listening to Music

It sounds silly to state the obvious but listening to music can also have immediate effects in lowering blood pressure and improving mood.

Whilst musical taste is personal, there have been numerous ,studies done on the effects of Classical music.

For those of you who aren’t music history buffs, Gregorian chant work was popular in the 10th century whilst the Classical period wasn’t until 1750.

The classical period was incredibly fascinating as newer technologies allowed instruments to be refined and improved enabling players greater flexibility and better tone colour.

Of particular note is the adherence to particular forms to create a sense of unity and completion.

A fascinating study in 2016 compared 60 subjects who were assigned to listen to either Mozart (from the Classical era) Strauss Jr (from the Romantic era which saw composers indulge in more emotionally charged works and freer forms) and ABBA.

The results came back showing that subjects who listened to Mozart and Strauss showed the reductions in blood pressure and cortisol levels. Interestingly, the Mozart group who had listened to his Symphony No 40 (KV550) showed the greatest reductions in blood pressure.

Unfortunately, those who listened to ABBA did not demonstrate large differences in cortisol or blood pressure levels.

Getting Into Music

If you’re more of a “doer” you can always pick up a new instrument.

Apart from the mental work-out you’ll get (which is great for offsetting age related mental decline), you’ll also be actively lowering your blood pressure.

Instruments like violin, guitar and piano require discipline, dedication and a great deal of co-ordination that will force all other mental worries to the background as you focus on the creation of pure joyous sound.

The sense of completion you’ll get when you master a peace is also a great source of joy that is sure to brighten your day.

If you’re not sure where to start or you’re not keen on picking up a new instrument, start humming.

Humming to yourself helps to ground you, getting you back in the moment and allows you to slow down your breathing.

This is fantastic if you suffer from anxiety.

By humming you can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system allowing you to clear your mind and lower your blood pressure.

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