Though it varies based on the individual, a human heart will pump approximately 2,000 gallons of blood through the body every day via its many arteries, which joins veins and capillaries in amounting to about 100,000 miles of blood vessels. Given the enormity of these numbers, it is considered tremendously important that the circulatory system work properly. One of the most prevalent ways that Western medicine assesses the health of the circulatory system is through measuring blood pressure.
Blood pressure is the measurement of force within the arteries, both when it is higher as the heart is pumpingblood and when it is lower as the heart is at rest. This pressure is gauged in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). The first, higher number (known as systolic pressure) is ideally between 90 and 119, and the second, lower number (known as diastolic pressure) is ideally between 60 and 79. A person is considered to have hypertension (known as high blood pressure), when these numbers are higher than 119 mmHg and 79 mmHg respectively. The formal diagnosis of the three different stages of hypertension are as follows:
Prehypertension is when systolic and diastolic pressure is between 120-139 and 80-89 respectively.
Stage 1 hypertension is when systolic and diastolic pressure is between 140-159 and 90-99 respectively.
Stage 2 hypertension is when systolic and diastolic pressure is over 160 and 100 respectively.
Having persistent hypertension can lead to severe complications of one’s health, including having a heart attack, a stroke, kidney failure, and loss of vision. Over 90-percent of all cases of hypertension are not from a specific cause, though it has been stated that contributing factors to this condition include obesity, the presence of excess salt in the body, and a genetic predisposition to the disease as inherited from one’s parents. Hypertension is not typically associated with specific symptoms, and it can affect any type of person at any stage of life.
Along with encouraging exercise, proper diet, and other lifestyle changes, Western medicine’s primary remedy for resolving hypertension is to administer one or more medications to lower the pressure in the arteries. These include ACE inhibitors (like Monopril and Zestril), calcium channel blockers (like Adalat), and various other types of medication. The intake of such medications numbs the heart muscle and thereby forces the heart to slow down. This can disassociate the heartbeat with the person’s movements, which has a weakening effect on the heart.
Ayurveda considers hypertension to be the product of whatever dosha happens to be aggravated in the afflicted individual. In other words, if someone is suffering from hypertension and typically experiences aggravation of his or her Pitta dosha, then it is Pitta-related challenges (like exhaustion and anger) that must be resolved in coordination with alleviating the high blood pressure.
Generally, Ayurveda teaches us that hypertension as well as other heart-related disorders can be caused by consuming too many indigestible foods, exerting oneself to the point of feeling excessive fatigue, feeling heightened emotions associated with stress (like worry and fear), and suppressing one’s natural urges (like urination and sneezing).
To determine which dosha’s aggravation is causing hypertension, the associated symptoms can be recognized as such:
*Vata-related hypertension may be associated with an erratic pulse, dryness in the body, insomnia, nervousness, fainting and lightheadedness, and other symptoms associated with the Vata dosha
*Pitta-related hypertension may be associated with redness in the face and the eyes, nose bleeds, burning sensations, excessive sweating, thirst, exhaustion, anger, and irritability.
*Kapha-related hypertension may be associated with obesity, mucus, coughing, excessive amounts of sleep and excessive feelings of general lethargy.
Hypertension can also be associated with symptoms related to all three doshas.
Unlike with Western medicine, Ayurvedic science takes the patient’s height, weight, mind, body shape, and ethnic origin into account when assessing their blood pressure. All of these individual personal attributes will change a person’s blood pressure depending on what kind of climate they live in, what foods they are use to eating, and what state of mind they are in at the present moment.
Ayurveda places emphasis on resolving a dosha aggravation as a key aspect of healing hypertension. If a sufferer has Pitta-related hypertension, for example, the balancing of their Pitta energy will help to reduce their blood pressure and create more balance in the body as well. Patients are instructed to eat dosha-reducing foods, take herbs, and utilize other remedies.
Ayurveda also instructs patients to resolve hypertension by managing stress-related emotions (such as worry and anger) through relaxation tools like yoga postures and meditation.
When we neglect to establish the root cause of one illness, it can turn into another, stronger illness in the future. The first step in resolving a specific ailment or disease in the body is to assess the nature of our lifestyle and make general modifications. Living our day-to-day life with a deliberate intention to improve our health will help us to both resolve the disease we are suffering from and prevent further incidence of it and other diseases in the future. The following lifestyle changes will help to both resolve the general effects of hypertension as well as the disease itself.
General Lifestyle Changes
Ayurveda teaches us that disease and sickness are derived from poor digestion and inappropriate food choices. We then have the opportunity to make deliberate and more conscious decisions as to what foods we do and do not put in our body which increase the chance of resolving the body’s imbalance.
Food needs to be in season, in moderate combinations of one or two food groups, not too hot or cold, in a modest enough quantity to allow for room in the stomach later, consumed without too much liquid which hinders digestive power, and should be fresh and not left over for more than a few hours. As noted above, a diet of dosha-reducing foods will help to alleviate hypertension as associated with whatever imbalances may be present in the body.
White basmati rice
Nuts and seeds in moderation
Milk and other dairy products
Oils such as olive and sesame
Rice (white basmati)
Ghee (in moderation)
Goat’s milk (in moderation)
While some foods can help to balance an aggravated dosha, other foods can cause further imbalance. Dry and cold foods as well as pungent, bitter and astringent tastes will dry out the body and aggravate the Vata dosha. Sour, salty and pungent tastes as well as spicy foods will add more heat to the body and aggravate the Pitta dosha.Sweet, sour and salty tasting foods will add heaviness to the body and aggravate the Kapha dosha. Avoiding the following foods can help balance whichever dosha is related to hypertension:
Most legumes including green lentils and garbanzo beans
Raw and cold foods
Sour foods (like yogurt, sour cream, and pickles)
Excessive amounts of oil
Sweets and candies
Dairy products (except goat milk, in moderation)
Generally, Ayurveda discourages the consumption of too many cold beverages, as doing so hinders the strength of the body’s digestive fire. Instead, favor room temperature or hot beverages to encourage the strength of the digestive fire.
Herbs are used in the Ayurvedic system much like Western medicine utilizes drugs and vitamins and can be taken like tea 2 to 3 times a day. Herbs aid in the digestion of food, the breakdown and elimination of toxins, and help to strengthen the cellular structure of our system for greater vitality. Herbs become more potent once mixed with other herbs of similar properties. Mix together 2 to 4 different herbs from the below list by adding a quarter to a half teaspoon full of each, for a total of 1 teaspoon. Drink these in half cup of hot water. The following herbs are either beneficial for all types of hypertension, or will help balance whichever dosha is triggering the hypertension:
Nutmeg (served in warm milk)
Aloe vera gel
When applied therapeutically to specific ailments, yoga postures provide an opportunity to strengthen the body, rid it of toxic matter, and restore balance. The postures included in this section can be practiced as part of a more general sequence or can be focused on in short sessions. When first exploring yoga postures, it is best to only practice them for twenty minutes or so per day and build up from there once the body becomes more flexible. Yoga postures and other relaxing exercises are of tremendous importance when working to resolve hypertension.
Knee to chest
Knee to chest
Aromatherapy utilizes the fragrances of essential oils when applied to the skin. Essential oils can burn the skin and therefore must be diluted with a base oil such as sesame, coconut, sunflower, canola, or mustard oil. Mix 1 fluid ounce of base oil with about 12 drops of essential oil before applying to skin. You can also just mix 5 drops of base oil to one drop of essential oil if using on one spot.
Vata-related hypertension can be treated with basil, camphor, cedar, eucalyptus, frankincense, ginger, cinnamon, lavender, lily, lotus, musk, myrrh, patchouli, sandalwood, or saffron oil.
Pitta-related hypertension can be treated with sandalwood, tea tree, rose, honeysuckle, gardenia, lily, iris, mint, lavender, or lotus oil.
Kapha-related hypertension can be treated with cinnamon, eucalyptus, sage, basil, musk, cedar, frankincense, or myrrh oil.
Ayurvedic tradition suggests that repeating certain words or sounds can help a person suffering from an ailment to restore subtle balance to nerve tissue and enhance one’s mental clarity. Different sounds are prescribed to either repeat mentally or chant outwardly. These sounds are also used and repeated in the mind for the purpose of spiritual growth.
For Vata-related hypertension, repeat the syllable “Ram” for several minutes a few times a day and build more practice over time.
As a Vata-related disorder, it is helpful to inwardly repeat this syllable for the duration of time it is practiced.
For Pitta-related hypertension, repeat the syllable “Aum” (pronounced ohm) for several minutes a few times a day and build more practice over time.
As a Pitta-related disorder, it is helpful to both outwardly chant and inwardly repeat this syllable for the duration of time it is practiced.
For Kapha-related hypertension, repeat the syllable “Hoom” for several minutes a few times a day and build more practice over time.
As a Kapha-related disorder, it is helpful to outwardly chant this syllable for the duration of time it is practiced.
Controlling the breath is a central practice toward developing peace and stillness in the mind and body. When the breath is under our control, we are no longer at the mercy of the senses that are stimulated by everything and lead to greater fluctuations of the mind. When applied to the context of resolving specific ailments, the breath is used as a tool for developing lung capacity, heating and cooling the body and resolving mental afflictions like anxiety and stress. Like with the yoga postures above, breathing exercises are likely to be of significant benefit to those who suffer from considerable amounts of stress.
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