According to new research, just reported in the journal Hypertension, the number of American adults with high blood pressure has jumped 30 percent in the past decade, to 65 million. That’s right - nearly one-third of our entire population suffers from hypertension, and many aren’t even aware of it.
Trust me, this is not good. And it is likely to get worse.
When you have high blood pressure, sometimes defined as 140/90 or higher, you are at much greater risk for heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and many other unpleasant and life-threatening problems, including my least favorite, dementia.
Taking care of sick people who develop high blood pressure problems is very, very expensive, whereas prevention is cheap.
You are probably familiar with the prevention tactics. Start with diet, not drugs. Lose weight. Exercise daily. Monitor salt intake. Drink less alcohol. While these methods are tried and true, it’s also true that too few people are making such changes. If they were, hypertension numbers would be going down instead of up.
Here are two new strategies for preventing your own high blood pressure.
- Eat pasture-raised, organic, cleaner foods.
It’s all about making healthier choices. And knowing that meat from pasture-raised animals is lower in calories and saturated fat than that of animals produced in factory farms.
“On factory farms, animals are overfed meal, grains and unsavory byproducts to make them gain weight as quickly as possible,” says Alice Slater, president of the Global Resource Action Center for the Environment. “As a result of this gorging, factory-farmed meat has a much higher fat content.”
There is a growing body of scientific research documenting that meat from pasture-raised animals is lower in calories and “bad” omega-6 fats and contains more of the “good” omega-3 fats that help fight disease and lower blood pressure.
When you eat cleaner, you protect the environment, you support the nation’s family farmers and you help lower your blood pressure. It may cost a little more in the short run, but in the long run, you save on meds and suffering. It’s a bargain.
- Use your breath to reduce stress on the spot.
All of us have stress in our lives, but if we have too much stress and deal with it in unhealthy ways, we can bring on a whopping case of high blood pressure. Breathwork - and meditation - can calm you, relax you, and keep the stress from building into hypertension.
Here is a favorite relaxation technique recommended by Dr. Andrew Weil, a pioneer in popularizing natural, non-drug ways to lower blood pressure.
First, place the tip of your tongue against the ridge just behind your upper front teeth and keep it there throughout the exercise. To begin, exhale completely through your mouth, making a whooshing sound. Then, inhale deeply and quietly through your nose to a silent count of four (with your mouth closed).
Hold your breath for a silent count of seven. Then, exhale through your mouth to a count of eight, again making that whooshing sound.
This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the entire cycle three more times for a total of four breaths. Do this twice a day or whenever you feel stressed or anxious. Don’t do any more than four cycles at a time for the first month of practice. If you’re comfortable with it after a month, you can increase to eight breath cycles each time.