Most women believe that they are likely to suffer from breast cancer, but did you know that heart disease claims the lives of 6 times as many women world over as breast cancer?!
Hypertension or high blood pressure affects almost 35% of all Indian adults and almost 60% of those over the age of 60.
The prevalence of this disease can be attributed the modern lifestyle of excess: smoking, excess alcohol, too much cholesterol and fats in our foods, too much salt, too much stress and of course excess body weight.
If you add the fact that most Indians don’t exercise, you can see why most Indians are actually living on the edge of a steep fall.
What is Blood Pressure?
Blood Pressure refers to the amount of pressure in your arteries which changes every time your heart pumps blood. Hypertension happens when the pressure in your body becomes so high that it starts interfering with the healthy functioning of your body because it takes more force to pump blood through your body.
When the blood pressure rises above normal, the blood’s normal pulsating movement is replaced by a pounding. Remember that even a slight increase in blood pressure can be significant when you take into account the fact that the heart beats well over one hundred thousand times a day.
This continuous battering is very hard on the walls of the blood vessels and weakens them over a period of time. High pressure can also cause damage to various internal organs creating problems like kidney failure and brain stroke over a period of time. Heart failure can also happen when the heart muscle eventually loses its ability to pump effectively.
Taking medication does not address the root causes of high BP. Doctors and cardio specialists always advise lifestyle changes first and foremost especially for people whose blood pressure is only slightly above normal.
The Yoga Advantage
A number of studies by researchers and scientists have established the benefits of Yoga for treating and curing high BP. An old classic study in the late 1960’s (K. K. Datey et al. “Shavasan: A Yogic Exercise in the Management of Hypertension.” Angiology 20, no. 6 (1969): 325-333.) had proved that the practice of just one pose – Shavasana (Corpse Pose) reduced blood pressure by a large margin with regular practice of just 1 week.
In another study, (R. Murugesan, N. Govindarajulu, and T. K. Bera. “Effect of Selected Yogic Practices on the Management of Hypertension.” Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology 44, no. 2 (2000): 207-210.) several heart patients were given Yoga Therapy and after 6 months, all showed a significant decrease in blood pressure and most of them were able to start decreasing their dosage of hypertension pills.
In another study done in the year 2000, half the participants of a research group practised yoga and the other half received drug treatments. After 11 weeks of monitoring, the researchers concluded that the practice of Yoga was equally as effective as the medication in terms of controlling hypertension.
Several other studies done around the world have proved that stress reduction and better heart health can be achieved through behavioural procedures such as Yoga, Biofeedback, Meditation and Psychotherapy chief among them being Yoga.
What about Cardio or Running?
Adding a routine of Yoga to your daily or weekly schedule can have tremendous positive effects on your heart’s health. Light to moderate aerobic activity and workouts at the gym are also recommended for those suffering from high blood pressure.
But it is important to note the differences in how Yoga and aerobic activity affects your heart. Workouts that consist of jogging, running and gym training bring more blood flow to the heart and at the same time raising your heart rate, pulse, blood pressure and oxygen consumption.
Of course, exercises such as these can be very beneficial for the heart, lungs, muscles and blood vessels. If you exercise vigorously, the oxygen that your body demands can often be greater than your body’s ability to supply oxygen to your muscles leading to a buildup of lactic acid in your muscles.
Contrast that to the practice of Yogasanas and Pranayama that are gentle aerobic exercises that do not exceed your body’s demand for oxygen. At the end of a Yoga session, whether you are practising in group or practising yoga privately under a personal yoga trainer, one feels refreshed apart from a calm and relaxed mind which is usually not the case after an hour of workout in a Crossfit or a spinning session.
Yoga Tips To Treat Hypertension
• Add Physical Activity to your Daily Life
• Decrease salt in your diet.
• Eat a high fibre diet. Include oat bran and whole grains such as brown rice, millet and buckwheat.
• Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.
• Keep your fat intake in moderation if you have high cholesterol levels.
• Avoid fatty red meat.
• Use fat-free dairy products.
• Drink alcohol and coffee in moderation.
• Avoid Pollution and second-hand cigarette smoke.
• Get plenty of sleep.
• Start managing your stress.
• Get involved with people by joining clubs, a health club or visit religious gatherings aligned with your faith.
• Volunteer to work for charitable trusts and organisations.
About the author:
Tania Verma is the co-founder of Wellintra Fitness and an avid Yoga and Martial Arts Fitness Trainer and Practitioner.