Part 1: Hypertension FAQs
What Is Hypertension?
It is a medical condition where the force of the blood against the walls of the arteries is consistently high.
The question arises: What level of blood pressure is considered high?
A systolic pressure reading of more than 130 mm Hg and a diastolic pressure reading of more than 80 mm Hg on more than 3 occasions is defined as Hypertension.
Normal blood pressure is considered to be below 120/80 mmHg.The first number (systolic) represents the pressure when the heart contracts, while the second number (diastolic) signifies the pressure when the heart relaxes between beats. Understanding these numbers empowers you to keep track of your heart's rhythm and take action when needed.
How Does One Get Hypertension?
Unhealthy food and lifestyle habits, excessive salt, alcohol, caffeine intake, chronic stress, etc can cause HTN.
One can also get HTN due to underlying conditions such as Chronic kidney disease, Diabetes, Obesity, Pregnancy, Coarctation of the Aorta, and certain medications such as Acetaminophen, Antidepressants, NSAIDs, Corticosteroids and Cushings syndrome - a condition where there is an overproduction of Cortisol in the body leading to high blood pressure levels.
What Happens If Hypertension Is Left Untreated?
It can have severe consequences if left unaddressed, including an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular complications and even dementia.
While conventional treatments like medications can be effective, exploring the holistic wisdom of Ayurveda may offer valuable insights into managing hypertension and promoting overall heart health.
What Does Ayurveda Say About Hypertension
According to Ayurveda, the Human body is governed by 3 functional principles or energies known as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Together they are known as “Doshas”.
Each of these doshas is responsible for specific functions in the body for example- Vata is responsible for movements like circulation of blood, conduction of nerve impulses, and so on, Pitta is responsible for transformation & digestion and Kapha maintains & supports the body structure, and keeps it intact.
All these doshas work in unison and help carry out various physiological processes in our body and when their balance gets disturbed it leads to various ailments or diseases.
A disturbance in one dosha leads to the subsequent disturbance in the other 2 doshas over time.
How Is Hypertension Caused As Per Ayurveda?
When there is a disturbance in the Vata dosha (responsible for movement) in the body it impairs the movement of blood through the arteries leading to an imbalance in Pitta, which is the transformative dosha closely associated with blood thus causing increased blood pressure levels. Over time this affects the Kapha dosha thus altering the structure of blood vessels leading to blockages causing cardiovascular diseases.
Part 2: Ayurvedic Management for Hypertension
Ayurveda always gives importance to addressing the Mind (Sattva), soul (atma), and Physical Body (sharira). In a diseased state, the balance of these 3 is affected due to the imbalanced doshas, so in addition to medicines or herbs, Ayurveda suggests practices that also take care of the mind and soul.
Fixing Your Dinacharya (Daily Routine)
Ayurveda gives utmost importance to Daily routine known as Dinacharya.
Your body reacts to what you do from the time you wake up to the time you sleep and also how you do it.
Walking as little as 100 steps(shata pavali) after your meals helps you digest food better thus maintaining the balance of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha doshas and also keeping your gut healthy and thus your overall mood and mind.
What Ayurveda said 5,000 years ago is now being discovered via research that the Gut influences how you feel, and one may experience anxiety, depression and also make you easily stress out if you have Gut issues, which can further affect those with Hypertension.
Also, regular walks of 30 minutes help with obesity-induced hypertension as well. An early morning barefoot walk on grass is even more beneficial as this helps balance the pitta in the body, works on acupressure points in your feet, improves heart health, is stress relieving and refreshing, and also gives you sun time which helps boost Vitamin D levels in the body naturally.
Low Vitamin D levels may also contribute to Hypertension. Barefoot walks immerse you in fresh air, a vital element in cleansing the body of pollutants.
Benefits of Abhyanga (Full Body Massage)
Abhyanga or a full body massage is an excellent way to relax and calm the body and this practice also helps keep the Vata dosha in check. Abhyanga helps improve blood circulation hence reducing pressure exerted by blood on the artery walls thus reducing increased blood pressure levels. Oils like Coconut, Sesame, or Olive can be used for this purpose.
A few minutes of sun exposure post-abhyanga helps in significant improvement of Vitamin D levels as compared to normal sun exposure without abhyanga.
One can also add essential oils to this which further helps one relax, calms the senses, and thus helps maintain blood pressure levels.
Essential oils like Ylang ylang, Lavender, and Frankincense help reduce blood pressure levels and a few drops of these can be added to your abhyanga oils.
Make sure to do a test patch before using any of these essential oils or carrier oils to rule out any allergies.
One can also use these oils in diffusers or add a few drops to a spray bottle containing water and use it as a room spray or a body spritzer.
Ayurveda also suggests certain foods and herbs that effectively help manage blood pressure levels.
Garlic: Due to its sharp and heating qualities, it helps balance the Kapha and the Vata doshas and also clear blocked channels.
Allicin, the main active compound in garlic, is thought to be largely responsible for garlic’s blood-pressure-lowering properties.
Garlic pods can be steamed and eaten after food, garlic powder can be sprinkled on top of salad or soup, 2 -3 pods of garlic can be eaten per day.
Those with heartburn or acidity issues, excess body heat, and those who are allergic must avoid garlic.
Ginger: Dry ginger is another great alternative to help manage hypertension as it helps balance vata and kapha, is congenial for the heart and promotes digestion.
It can also help bring the blood pressure to a normal range, and has to be used in moderation for people with frequent acidity and burning sensation post meals.
Reduce Caffeine: Around 85% of Americans consume at least one caffeinated beverage a day, and caffeine is one of the major factors that increase blood pressure levels.
Drinks like Coffee, Tea, Energy drinks, and Sodas are usually high in caffeine and cause a spike in blood pressure levels up to 3-4 hours of consumption.
Sodas in particular cause a Vata spike in the body which can make you feel bloated and gassy in addition to increasing your blood pressure levels.
Ayurveda talks about various caffeine-free alternatives such as Coriander tea, Hibiscus tea, Carom seed tea ( ajwain tea) which are not only caffeine-free but also help maintain blood pressure levels.
Teas like chamomile and lavender also help one relax and yet feel refreshed.
Infusions Are Your Friend: Ayurveda mentions cold and hot infusions, one such infusion is the cold coriander/cilantro infusion.
Soak a teaspoon full of dry coriander/cilantro seeds the previous night- strain and drink this infusion the next day (beneficial for hypertension especially with anxiety, and giddiness). This helps balance all the 3 doshas, especially pitta, and is beneficial in HTN as well.
For a hot infusion pour hot water in a glass containing a teaspoon full of coriander seeds, let it seep for 5 mins, and enjoy it with some jaggery.
Coriander: Coriander leaves are amazing for balancing the 3 doshas. Garnish Fresh coriander leaves over hot dishes like curries, soups, or sautéed salads
Celery & Moringa: The juice of Celery is beneficial as it is a Diuretic and rich in potassium, both of which help manage HTN.
Drumstick or Moringa pod is very effective in managing Hypertension and is rich in potassium. One can add it to curry or steamed along with vegetables. Drumstick pod tea is also a simple form of consuming it.
Cut the drumstick into small pieces add water, boil and reduce. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and drink 1 or 2 cups a day. Can be had as evening tea.
Black Pepper: Let us now turn our focus to the humble yet potent spice - Pepper ! Black pepper is known for its sharpness and this helps balance the Kapha as well as Vata doshas. It consists of Piperine which helps lower blood pressure levels and also improves heart health.
One can use pepper pods as is, in salads and porridges, or sprinkle some black pepper powder on soups, salads, and fruit.
One can also consume one black pepper seed with warm water on an empty stomach every morning. Those with heartburn or sensitive stomachs can use a pinch of pepper powder on food instead of swallowing it whole.
Veggies & Fruits: Keeping your meals as green as possible is always a good choice. This not only promotes better heart health by combating hypertension but also enhances your overall well-being.
Bananas contain potassium, which can help manage hypertension. As high sodium or salt intake is one of the common causes of hypertension, the potassium content in bananas help counter sodiums effect on the body.
Its essential to remember here that most fruits have to be eaten alone and not mixed with multiple ingredients, as this way they digest well and are assimilated better by the body.
The best time for eating fruits would be mid-morning or in the afternoon before your meal.
Veggies and Leafy greens contain Potassium and Magnesium which help maintain optimum blood pressure levels.
They are also a source of fiber and help maintain gut health.
Prefer cooked or sauteed veggies over raw as raw veggies may cause bloating due to Vata build up sometimes.
One can garnish veggies with pepper powder, coriander, and ghee to reduce the bloating effect.
Reduce Fast Food: Statistics from a survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics from Center for Disease Control show that over one-third (36.6%) of adults in America eat Junk food on any given day. That's about 84.8 million adults eating fast food every day.
Junk or fast food is often high in calories, Salt, MSG- Mono sodium glutamate, and Vata, and Kapha doshas which can lead to increased blood pressure levels. If consumed consistently over time can cause HTN. It's best to indulge in it occasionally rather than making it a staple.
Along with diet, Ayurveda gives profound importance to eating etiquette as well. Ayurveda emphasizes engaging all five senses with food while eating and not indulging in watching TV, talking, texting, or anything that can distract you from your meal, as this often leads to overeating. One must sit comfortably in a calm environment, chew their food well, and eat local and seasonal food as it suits the gut best.
With busy routines and the variety of food options available in the market, it is often easy to buy foods which may not be conducive to one's health. It is mindful to cultivate a habit of cooking your own meals as often as you can.
This not only gives you better control of what goes into one's food, it also makes you more mindful of the food choices one makes. It also serves as an opportunity to eat a clean and healthy, freshly cooked meal rather than opting for a stale meal.
Time your meals when you are comfortably hungry and don’t wait till you are extremely hungry or starving. Food should be consumed up to 3/4th of one's capacity, to allow better digestion and prevention of toxin formation. Stop eating just before you begin to feel full.
To time your meals better, try to keep a 4-hour gap between the 3 major meals of the day- Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Ideally, your breakfast must be mid-sized, lunch the largest, and Dinner the lightest. On days where there might be some alterations in the 4-hour gap, you can opt for a healthy snack such as a handful of soaked mix of nuts, raisins, dates, etc., or if it's mid-day, then a fruit.
Raisins and dates balance Vata & Pitta and contain potassium which helps manage HTN. Maintaining meal timings helps you stay attuned to the circadian rhythm and stay disciplined.
Avoid Too Much Water
It is also not advisable to drink a lot of water before your meal time as that may hamper your digestion. Always drink water in sips rather than gulping down glasses. Favor warm water over room temperature or chilled water, as warm water helps balance Vata & Kapha and also regulates digestion.
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