The majority of us think high blood pressure is a natural sign of ageing, and that it happens to the best of us. But did you know it doesn’t have to be this way? If you look after your heart, make small changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can control your blood pressure without medication.
What is high blood pressure?
While your pulse will measure your heart health, your blood pressure can tell you about the health of your arteries – the blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the organs and tissues in the body.
High blood pressure, also known as ‘Hypertension’, is often considered a normal part of the ageing process, and can go unnoticed for many years. You may have high blood pressure without ever suspecting it.
Since symptoms may be non-existent, or vague (tiredness, headaches, and dizziness), the only way to keep track of blood pressure is to have it checked regularly. When measuring blood pressure, do bear in mind that it rises and falls throughout the day, depending on our activities and emotional state.
What causes high blood pressure?
Over time, many people’s arteries become gradually harder and narrower and lose elasticity, a process known as arteriosclerosis. When our arteries become restricted or ‘furred up’, it narrows the vessels. The supply of oxygen-rich blood to the tissues is then reduced, which makes the heart work harder to supply more oxygen, increasing your blood pressure and ageing us faster.
This process has been recognised as a major cause of dementia in the elderly. The kidneys, liver and other organs also suffer from the reduced blood flow, and cannot function as effectively in detoxifying the body, leading to long term damage.
Another cause of raised blood pressure is a lack of magnesium. Magnesium is used by the muscles to relax after they have contracted (this is how the heart pumps blood around the body), and research has shown that arteries are considerably narrower in people who are deficient in magnesium.
Muscle cramps and eye ticks are a symptom of magnesium deficiency. Stress and exercise are also known to deplete the Magnesium levels in your body, which may already be low due to your diet – if you don’t eat enough leafy green veg, whole grains and seeds. This may explain why fit, apparently healthy people sometimes die suddenly of a heart attack or stroke. Stress is also a major factor because adrenaline is released, which increases your heart rate, breathing and blood pressure, but also constricts the arteries.
Despite all this, there is plenty you can do to help yourself, and 85% of high blood pressure cases can be treated without drugs if you are willing to change your diet and lifestyle. For example, in societies where salt is virtually absent, so is hypertension.
Dietary changes to reduce blood pressure
Salt – there is a clear link between salt and high blood pressure. Salt causes the body to hold more water, more water means more blood volume, and therefore higher blood pressure. Health foods shops have alternatives such as magnesium and potassium based salt, and always use salt sparingly.
Reduce stimulants – blood pressure has been seen to drop as much as 20 points when caffeine is eliminated because caffeine causes the arteries to constrict. Also avoid alcohol and smoking which have similar effects.
Magnesium rich foods – eat more green vegetables, fresh fruit, unsalted nuts, seafood, currents, figs, apricots, almonds and sunflower seeds which are all rich in minerals such as magnesium and potassium.
Beetroot - One vegetable that has been shown to reduce high blood pressure is beetroot. Beetroot can be eaten raw or cooked, hot or cold, made into juices, and even added to chocolate cake!
Juice - If you are not a fan of eating fruits and vegetables, at least drink a couple of glasses of fruit or vegetable juice. You may be losing out on the fibre content, but they will still be nutrient rich. Drinking 4 fl oz. of beetroot juice a day has he added benefit of providing the body with measurable extra energy.
Lifestyle changes to reduce blood pressure
Supplements - Take 500mg of magnesium, with 500mg of calcium supplements every day. Both of these minerals have been shown to lower blood pressure.
Reduce stress – try to find a method of relaxation which you enjoy such as meditation, T’ai Chi, Yoga exercising, walking or swimming.
Find things that make you laugh – laughter lessens the blood pressure and releases feel-good hormones in the brain.
Exercise – regular exercise is vital for reducing blood pressure – start walking briskly for 30 minutes every day.
Massage - Have a regular aromatherapy massage using relaxing essential oils, such as geranium, ylang ylang, clary sage, lavender, frankincense, and marjoram – all safe for heart disease and high blood pressure.
Take a bath - You can also try a bath blend; blend together 2 drops clary sage, 5 drops of marjoram, 5 drops of lavender, 5 drops of geranium, and 3 drops of chamomile with 1 teaspoon of carrier oil (coconut or almond oil), and add to a warm bath.
High Blood pressure and Reflexology
Did you know it’s possible to lower your blood pressure using Reflexology? It also comes with other benefits including reducing stress and anxiety, boosting blood flow, eliminating pain, and increasing your natural healing ability.
When treating hypertension, as a reflexologist, I will concentrate on the reflexes relating to your lungs, chest and heart, found on the balls of the feet. Proper functioning heart valves are important for the hearts ability to pump blood around the body. The lungs are responsible for the oxygenation of the blood, and vital for a good supply. Also, stimulating the diaphragm will deepen your breathing and move more oxygen into the body.
I also work the kidney reflexes to flush any toxins out of the body. The adrenal gland found in the kidneys (centre of the foot) is responsible for the fight-flight (stress) hormones. This may have a diuretic effect on the body, and you may find you need to visit the loo more frequently after a session as excess fluid is released, however, removing the fluid will also help to reduce blood pressure.
Evidence Reflexology lowers blood pressure
In Korea, nurses were trained to apply foot reflexology to patients with hypertension twice a week. After 6 weeks, the results showed significant decreases in systolic blood pressure compared to the group who did not receive reflexology.
In a study from Turkey, 17 healthy people, plus 20 people with coronary heart disease who were about to undergo surgery received an hour of reflexology. In both groups, the reflexology significantly reduced the blood pressure.
In the healthy control group, average blood pressure 30 minutes before treatment was 136/75 mmHg and 124/67 mmHg when measured 60 minutes after reflexology.
In those with Coronary heart disease, average blood pressure before the treatment was 153.5/84.5 mmHg and 134/75.5 mmHg 60 minutes after a reflexology treatment. These were highly significant results, and were also seen in patients on medication, including beta-blockers.
Reflexology and stress
Another study, this time from the UK, looked at the effects of reflexology in reducing anxiety and stress.
26 healthy volunteers were subjected to experimental stress conditions before and after a 20-minute session which their either received foot reflexology, or a relaxation session in which a therapist just held their feet.
In those who just had their feet held, the relaxation session was associated with a 10% reduction in systolic blood pressure but a 5% increase in diastolic blood pressure during the following period of mental stress.
In those who received foot reflexology, there were significant reductions in systolic blood pressure (a 22% fall) and diastolic blood pressure (a 26% fall) during the following period of mental stress.
This suggests that reflexology can reduce the rise in blood pressure associated with stress.
Medication and caution
You can do reflexology whilst taking blood pressure medication (don’t stop). If your blood pressure drops after reflexology for a few days, then you can reduce your medication and monitor your BP closely for any raise. If it raises, go back to your original dose.
Reflexology is perfectly safe for most people, but if you are pregnant, suffer with gout, osteoarthritis, or any other conditions that affects your foot, ankle or circulation, then consult a doctor before you start reflexology. If you need any free advice, please contact me, and I will be happy to talk through this with you.
If you found this helpful, please feel free to share this post, or comment below on any positive results you may have achieved with small changes or reflexology.
Smiles are fat free, sugar free and reduce blood pressure, so keep smiling