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Ask The Expert : What changes could I make to my lifestyle which would help reduce my blood pressure?

This article’s expert was Dr David Mason Brown.

“There’s a poster from the World Health Organisation in my staffroom which states “Under Pressure? Cut your risk of heart attack and stroke – control your blood pressure”. I know my blood pressure errs on the high side, although not at a level where I have to take medication, but the poster’s made me think and I wondered if you could offer any lifestyle tips which may help me reduce it myself without any medical intervention?”

Medicine is becoming better and better at treating many conditions, especially heart disease with stents or even quadruple bypasses.  There is also an increased ability to treat and rehabilitate after strokes.  But high blood pressure is very much linked to our modern lifestyle with many having poor work life balance and thus reduced personal wellbeing.

Thus the best treatment is prevention, especially as we all want to be fit for the long haul.  High blood pressure can be silent for years, so the first thing is to have your blood pressure checked and also have your cholesterol checked at the same time.  The chronic stress of excess adrenaline is very cardio toxic and can even lead to the sudden cardiac death syndrome, even in one’s thirties.

For good personal wellbeing you need a healthy lifestyle, pacing yourself, building in recovery time as well as making time to exercise, being able to switch off at the end of the day and having a good night’s sleep, so that you awake refreshed and renewed for the next day.

Learn to listen to your body and do not abuse it, try and cultivate moderation in all things including alcohol. A well-known psychologist took up jogging, became addicted to jogger’s high with endorphins and ran about 10 miles a day.  He ended up with two knee replacements and then a heart attack, i.e. too much of a good thing.  But no exercise is equally bad. The NHS recommends walking briskly for at least 30 minutes a day. This can be done in two 15 minute bouts during the commute, for example.

Do you have a marked circadian dip in the afternoon? If so, walking briskly round the block at lunchtime or before an important meeting can help.  A Greek study of men who had three or more lunchtime naps a week compared to those who had none, had 64% less heart attacks over 10 years.  Learning to powernap is a useful skill.

I teach the basics of meditation in my energy, lifestyle and personal wellbeing workshops. It can make a tremendous difference.  There are ongoing studies, the results for most will not be available until the end of the participants’ lives; however, one has now been completed because the average age of the participants when it started was 71 years. This was reported in the American Journal of Cardiology (2nd May 2005) and followed 202 men and women over a period of 18 years. Comparing those taught to use transcendental meditation with the controls showed a 23% reduction in death from all causes, a 30% reduction in deaths from cardiovascular disease (heart disease and strokes), and a 49% reduction in deaths from cancer.  Meditation also increases creativity and ability to focus.

If you smoke, please stop as it is the single most helpful health choice of all … and think of the money you will have to use for other things! Stopping smoking and having a healthy diet decreases narrowing of the arteries and that also reduces the onset of high blood pressure.  Finally observe drama junkies, but do not join them.  Be kind to yourself and others.

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