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Hypertension

What is Hypertension?

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.

How Does Ayurveda View Hypertension?

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.

How Does Ayurveda Treat Hypertension?

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.

Lifestyle Changes for Hypertension

 

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

  • Eat simple, non-spicy foods that are easy to digest such as fruits, vegetables, and white basmati rice. Consider eliminating meats, poultry, and other animal proteins from the diet, as these foods have low water content, are high in fat or grease, and are therefore difficult to digest.
  • Avoid the suppression of natural urges such as sneezing, coughing, urination, bowel movements, sweating through the use of antiperspirants, and the expulsion of gas.
  • Avoid overexertion in the form of excessive exercise, manual labor, and other physical activities.
  • Utilize yoga posture and meditation exercises on a daily basis as a means for managing stress-related emotions like worry, anger, and nervousness.
  • Avoid the long-term use of blood pressure medication, which can have adverse side-effects on the body such as reducing the heart rate to an unhealthy level.

Vata

  • Eat a Vata-reducing diet that avoids dry and raw foods and puts greater emphasis on the consumption of oils, ghee, and cooked vegetables.
  • Create a regular sleep routine that includes the same bedtime every night. Be sure to go to bed early, at around 10pm.
  • Massage warm sesame oil into the skin and head on a daily basis.
  • Rest when the breath becomes shallow or very rapid.

Pitta

  • Eat a Pitta-reducing diet that avoids spicy, sour, greasy, and salty foods as well as animal proteins like beef. Put greater emphasis on the consumption of sweet fruits and easy-to-digest grains like white basmati rice.
  • Avoid the consumption of caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes, as these substances can aggravate Pitta energy even further.
  • Employ the services of an Ayurvedic practitioner to receive pancha karma and other purgation therapies.
  • If body heat seems to be rising, rest for a few minutes until it subsides.
  • Keep the head out of direct, hot sunlight. Avoid too much heat on the bottom of the feet (like when walking on hot sand).
     

Kapha

  • Eat a Kapha-reducing diet that avoids sweet foods, nuts, seeds, and dairy and puts greater emphasis on foods with Kapha-balancing spices like ginger, cardamom, and black pepper.
  • Take daily walks to keep the body active and alleviate the heaviness associated with excess Kapha.
  • Engage in regular exercise in the form of yoga postures and other heat-producing activities.
  • Avoid sitting or lying around the house, as this will make the blood even more stagnant.

 

Better Foods For Hypertension

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.

 


Peaches
Plums
Cherries
Figs(Fresh)
Carrots
Beets
Asparagus
Sweet potatoes
White basmati rice
Oats (cooked)
Nuts and seeds in moderation
Milk and other dairy products
Ghee
Oils such as olive and sesame

 Apples
Pears
Pomegranates
Melons
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Brussels Sprouts
Asparagus
Rice (white basmati)
Oats (cooked)
Ghee
Cow’s milk
Olive oil

Apples
Pears
Pomegranate
Raisins
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Carrots
Asparagus
Barley
Millet
Ghee (in moderation)
Goat’s milk (in moderation)

 

Foods To AVOID In Response To Hypertension

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:

 

Apples
Pears
Watermelon
Cauliflower
Broccoli
Tomatoes
Celery
Eggplant
Corn
Oats (dry)
Barley
Most legumes including green lentils and garbanzo beans
Dry foods
Raw and cold foods

Grapefruit
Bananas
Cherries
Pineapple
Tomatoes
Garlic
Carrots
Spinach
Rice (brown)
Corn
Nuts
Lentils
Corn oil
Almond oil
Spicy foods
Salt
Meat
Sour foods (like yogurt, sour cream, and pickles)

 Bananas
Melons
Papayas
Avocado
Plums
Sweet potatoes
Zucchini
Cucumbers
Tomatoes
Wheat
Rice
Nuts
Seeds
Kidney beans
Mung beans
Excessive amounts of oil
Sweets and candies
Allergy-causing foods
Dairy products (except goat milk, in moderation)
Unnatural sugar
Cold foods

Beverages For Hypertension

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.

  • Hot water, especially during meals and first thing in the morning.
  • Herbal teas of arjuna, ashwagandha, and saffron, as well as dosha-balancing herbs as outlined below.
  • Avoid cold and frozen drinks.
  • Avoid sugary or fizzy drinks that blend with the digestive juice and make it weak.
  • Avoid alcohol, coffee, and black tea.

Herbs For Hypertension

 

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:

General

Arjuna
Ashwagandha
Saffron
Turmeric

Garlic
Nutmeg (served in warm milk)
Gotu kola
Ashwaganda

Aloe vera gel
Sandalwood
Gotu kola
Triphala

Ginger
Black pepper
Cayenne
Garlic
Myrrh

 

Yoga Postures For Hypertension

 

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.

Camel
Bridge
Plough
Knee to chest
Corpse

Bridge
Shoulder stand
Knee to chest
Fish
Corpse

Boat
Bridge
Plough
Shoulder stand
Forward bend
Fish

Vata

 
 
 
 
 

Pitta

 
 
 
 
 

Kapha

 
 
 
 
 

Aromatherapy For Hypertension

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.

  • Use a sesame oil base.
  • Apply oil on the forehead or on the back of the neck.

Pitta-related hypertension can be treated with sandalwood, tea tree, rose, honeysuckle, gardenia, lily, iris, mint, lavender, or lotus oil.

  • Use a coconut or sunflower oil base.
  • Apply oil in the center of the chest in front of the heart.

Kapha-related hypertension can be treated with cinnamon, eucalyptus, sage, basil, musk, cedar, frankincense, or myrrh oil.

  • Use a canola or mustard oil base.
  • Apply oil on the skin between the navel and pubic bone

Mantra Therapy For Hypertension

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.

 

Breathing Practices For Hypertension

 

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.

All Doshas

 

Vata

 

Pitta

 

Kapha

 
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