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Yoga and Other Ways to Lower Blood Pressure

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Updated March 29, 2014

Mind-Body Interventions

Mind-body interventions, particularly yoga, meditation, qi gong, autogenic training, and biofeedback have been found to modestly lower high blood pressure and may be helpful as part of a treatment plan.

1) Yoga

An ancient system of relaxation, exercise and healing with origins in Indian philosophy, yoga is often practiced to improve the wellbeing of the mind and body. It is also recommended for medical conditions, with the strongest evidence supporting its use as a treatment for high blood pressure. Learn more about yoga for heart health.

2) Meditation

The regular practice of meditation may help to reduce stress and lower blood pressure, though many of the available studies have had methodological issues. Further research is needed. Find out more on meditation for high blood pressure.

3) Qi Gong

A form of traditional Chinese medicine, qi gong may benefit people with high blood pressure. Some preliminary studies suggest that high blood pressure in pregnancy may be partially controlled with internal qi gong (a self-guided technique involving meditation, gentle movement, and sound). Learn more about using qi gong for health.

4) Autogenic Training - a technique used for stress reduction and relaxation. It involves a series of sessions in which people learn how to control breathing, blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature.

People learn six exercises that each involve a certain posture (e.g reclining in a chair), concentration without a goal, imagination, and verbal cues. Each exercise is learned by watching a teacher demonstrate it or by reading a description. It requires regular practice. Learn more about autogenic training.

5) Biofeedback - a technique in which people learn how to gain control over internal body processes that normally occur involuntarily, such as blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and skin temperature.

Biofeedback is primarily used for high blood pressure, migraine, tension headache, chronic pain, and urinary incontinence.

Of the different types of biofeedback, thermal feedback (which measures skin temperature) and electrodermal activity feedback (which uses a probe that responds to sweat) may be more effective than direct blood pressure feedback or electromyography (EMG), which measures muscle tension. Learn more about biofeedback.

6) Exercise

Physical inactivity raises the risk of high blood pressure by 30%. Regular exercise can lower blood pressure and improve heart health. At least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise per day is typically recommended.

Alternative Therapies

Ayurvedic Medicine

In Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India, high blood pressure is treated according to each person’s dosha, or constitutional type. 

The pitta type may have a flushed face, red eyes, headaches, light sensitivity, irritability, and nosebleeds.

The kapha type may have excess weight, water retention, high cholesterol, sluggishness.

The vata type may feel cold, have gas, bloating, or constipation, insomnia, or nervousness, worry, or anxiety.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

In traditional Chinese medicine, high blood pressure is often attributed to a problem with the circulation of vital energy (qi) in the body. Chinese medicine practitioners believe that depression, anger, obesity, and high intake of fatty foods are some of the causative factors.

A combination of acupuncture and herbs is often recommended. Foods thought to have medicinal properties that may help high blood pressure include water chestnut, turnip, honey, Chinese celery, hawthorn berries, and mung beans.

Emotions also play a role in our health. Learn about emotions in traditional Chinese medicine and how certain emotions are linked to physical symptoms.

Herbs and Supplements To Avoid

Herbs that have been found or suspected to cause high blood pressure include:
Licorice
Ephedra
Asian Ginseng
Rosemary essential oil

High Blood Pressure Symptoms

High blood pressure usually doesn't cause any symptoms in the early stages. Symptoms associated with high blood pressure can include:

  • Dizziness or dizzy spells
  • Headache
  • Nosebleeds

Causes of High Blood Pressure

In most cases of high blood pressure, the American Heart Association says there is no one identifiable cause. This kind of high blood pressure is called primary hypertension or essential hypertension. It is usually a combination of factors, such as:

  • Weight. The greater your body mass, the more pressure there is on your artery walls. That's because more blood is produced to supply oxygen and nutrients to tissues in your body.
  • Activity level. Lack of physical activity tends to increase heart rate, which forces your heart to work harder with each contraction.
  • Tobacco use. Chemicals in cigarettes and tobacco can damage artery walls.
  • Sodium intake. Excessive sodium in the diet can result in fluid retention and high blood pressure, especially in people sensitive to sodium.
  • Potassium intake. Low potassium can result in elevated sodium in cells, because the two balance one another.
  • Stress. Stress can raise blood pressure.
  • Alcohol consumption. Excessive alcohol intake can, over time, increase the risk of heart disease.
  • Age. The risk of high blood pressure increases as you get older.
  • Family history. High blood pressure often runs in families.
High blood pressure can also be caused by an underlying condition, such as kidney disease, hormonal disorders, thyroid disease, adrenal gland disease, and the use of certain drugs, such as oral contraceptives, or herbs such as licorice. This type of high blood pressure is called secondary hypertension.

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