Although with invention of new drugs, better management of the disease has been made possible, but medicines have to be taken almost life long and side effects of them pose other complications. For comprehensive understanding of this disease, we need to know what exactly high blood pressure is? What are its causes? What are its complications on our body and how to prevent and manage this disease without side effects ?
Although with invention of new drugs, better management of the disease has been made possible, but medicines have to be taken almost life long and side effects of them pose other complications.
For comprehensive understanding of this disease, we need to know what exactly high blood pressure is? What are its causes? What are its complications on our body and how to prevent and manage this disease without side effects ?
What is High Blood Pressure ?
Before knowing high blood pressure, we need to understand a closely related phenomenon of the body, the blood circulation, which is the movement of blood from heart to every cell, tissue and organ to supply nutrients and oxygen for generation of energy and carrying back the wastes and carbon dioxide for excretion. This circulation is made through arteries and veins also called blood vessels or pipes.
Total blood which circulates in our body is one eleventh of our body weight and for an average adult it is five litres. On an average, human heart pumps (beats) 72 times per minute and circulates five litres of blood in a minute.
The pressure with which circulating blood strikes walls of arteries and heart muscles itself is called Blood Pressure. It is normal in healthy individuals and may be high or low otherwise. Let us know what causes high or low blood pressure.
We can better understand it through example of flow of water in a garden rubber pipe. For a constant force of pressure of water in a tap or water pumping machine, pressure of water in rubber pipe depends on lumen or diameter of the pipe. If it is narrow, pressure will be more or high and in case lumen is wider it will be low. To explain it further, pressure of water in a pipe of half inch lumen will be double to the pressure of pipe with one inch lumen. Further more to some extent, it depends upon thickness and elasticity of the walls of the pipe. The more elastic and thinner the pipe, the lower the pressure, and the harder and thicker the pipe walls, the more the pressure.
This analogy stands true for pressure of blood due to pumping action of heart in arteries also. If lumen and elasticity of arteries is normal, blood pressure will be normal and in case lumen is less and walls are hard, blood pressure will be high. Further in case, pumping force of heart is weak, pressure will be low. What causes narrowing of lumen and hardening of arteries will be discussed in the section of causes of high blood pressure.
What is Normal Blood Pressure ?
Normal blood pressure is the optimal pressure with which blood should flow in a normal healthy individual. When heart contracts, it should be 120 mm Hg. (mm Hg is the unit by which pressure is measured) and when heart dilates, it should be 80 mm Hg commonly expressed as 120/80 mm Hg. Value 120 is also termed as upper blood pressure and 80 is called lower one, in common man's language. In medical terminology, upper is called 'Systolic' where as lower is called 'Diastolic 'blood pressure.
Pre-High Blood Pressure
Blood pressure measuring 120-139 mm Hg when heart contracts (systolic) and 80-89 mm Hg when it dilates (diastolic) is considered as pre- high blood pressure.
High Blood Pressure
Blood pressure measuring more than 140/90 mm Hg is considered as high blood pressure. It is further categorised as stage-1 and stage-2. Systolic blood pressure 140-159 mm Hg and diastolic 90-99 mm Hg is called stage-1 whereas systolic blood pressure 160 mm Hg or above, and diastolic blood pressure 100 mm Hg or above is termed as stage-2.
What Are Symptoms?
After having some information about high blood pressure, one naturally likes to know its common symptoms. Unfortunately, in early stages it remains unnoticed, as it does not produce significant symptoms. Hence it is also called silent killer disease. However some persons (lucky ones) may notice headache, blurred vision, light headedness, dizziness and disturbed sleep for which they may consult some physician and if found suffering from high blood pressure, start treatment and prevent complications which may otherwise prove fatal.
Complications and impact on body organs
Uncontrolled high blood pressure adversely affects heart, kidneys, eyes and brain in the form of complications. When it affects heart, the walls of chamber of the heart which pump out blood, become thin resulting in its enlargement. If it is not managed, heart is unable to pump blood to body effectively and a condition called “Heart Failure” is developed.
In some of the patients, high blood pressure affects coronary arteries which supply blood to heart muscles producing their inflammation, narrowing and blockage with formation of blood clot resulting into a complication of heart: Heart Attack, world's number one fatal disease .
High pressure of circulating blood can also affect kidneys causing their inability to filter out wastes from body medically termed as Kidney Failure and when it affects retina of the eyes, it produces Blindness. If high blood pressure ruptures arteries of brain, a condition called Brain Stroke or Brain Haemorrhage may occur, which causes paralysis.
So we find that this common life style disease is silently killing people by affecting their different body organs. We need to check it. The best way to arrest it is to understand what causes high blood pressure and by preventing and managing its causes, we can holistically treat this disease and help suffering humanity.
Holistic Ayurvedic Approach for Looking at Causes and Treatment
Regarding causes of any disease including high blood pressure, Ayurveda around five thousands year old Vedic life science, explains that when man was living very close to mother nature he was having unscathed life, free from diseases. During the course of evolution and civilisation, as he changed his natural life style and switched over to farming (of course it was organic), dairy and poultry, many diseases started erupting .
There is one detailed reference in a classical Ayurvedic book Charak Samhita which is considered as the Bible of Ayurveda, that fifty-six sages or seers from different parts of India gathered in the Himalayas to find out causes and solution for various life style diseases which were hindering basic pursuits of life like rightfulness, resourcefulness, exercise of prudence for sensual pleasure and salvation.
As a result, Ayurveda the science of life was evolved which portrays every disease from causes, symptoms and treatment perspective.
Regarding causes of hypertension, Ayurveda has a comprehensive and holistic approach. For maintaining originality and sanctity of this approach, fundamental causes of this disease are being described using Ayurvedic terminology in Sanskrit language.
Virudh Asatmaya Aahaar (Unhealthy incompatible food habits)
Virudh Asatmaya Aahaar is a sanskrit term, where ‘virudh’ means adverse or unhealthy in this pretext, ‘asatmaya’ means incompatible with body and ‘aahar’ means food. So, unhealthy food habits are considered as one of its important causes. Foods which fall in this category include fried foods, processed foods, foods with excessive amounts of saturated fats, diary products, poultry, red meat, animal food high in saturated fats, unbalanced and more than recommended calorie diet, stale foods etc. These are incompatible to our body, increase cholesterol levels and cause narrowing and hardening of our arteries producing high blood pressure.
Virudh Asatmaya Vihaar (Unhealthy lifestyle)
Virudh Asatmaya Vihaar is another sanskrit term which means unhealthy incompatible life style. It is the second most important cause of this disease.
All activities which we perform in our life span is our life style. In order to be healthy, we need to have healthy life style which is simply a natural life style, the life style which man was following when he was not bitten by bug of modern life of advanced technology. Although there are many unhealthy life style activities responsible for it, but three most important of them are sedentary life style, unhealthy sleep habits and digital distraction.
Sedentary life style means passion for physical comforts of life and not having adequate physical activities which are important for metabolism and maintenance of optimum body weight. It consequently increases our cholesterol levels and adversely affects chemicals like endorphins, dopamine, growth hormones, serotonin, insulin, cortisol, epinephrine, which in one or the other way produces obesity or narrows and hardens arteries there by results in high blood pressure.
Unhealthy sleeping habits include late night sleep, less or excessive sleep which disturbs our bio-clock and subsequently alters bio-chemistry. Because of it stress hormone cortisol level increases, thyroid hormones T3, T4 and TSH levels as well as growth hormones levels are disturbed. Leptin level comes down which normally supresses and controls appetite & adrenalin level which stimulates appetite is increased and results into obesity and or narrowing of lumen of arteries which results in high blood pressure .
Digital distraction is the distraction of our mind in the digital world of mobiles, computers and other such appliances. Although they are necessities of life, but the rule "too much of everything is bad" applies here also. As a matter of fact, it is the root cause of mental stress which causes increased secretion of adrenaline, narrowing of arteries and high blood pressure.
The simplest way of understanding the ill effects of above factors is looking at the life of animals living natural life who eat most healthy organic natural food free from chemical fertilisers and pesticides, perform plenty of physical activities, sleep well in harmony with bio clock and never develop any life style disease like diabetes, cancer, stroke and high blood pressure. They also do not need to visit physicians.
Pragya Apraadha (Crime against wisdom)
Pragya Apraadha is a Sanskrit word which means Cognitive offence or Crime against wisdom, it has been considered in Ayurveda as another important factor for it. Smoking and drinking are some of social cognitive offences responsible for this disease as they also narrow and harden arteries.
Matraj Pitraj Bhavjanya (Genetic factors)
Matraj Pitraj Bhavjanya is yet another Sanskrit term, where matraj means mother, pitraj means father and bhavjanya means factor which collectively means Genetics.
It has been observed that genetics also plays a role for incidence of this as well as many other diseases, which Ayurveda acknowledged centuries ago.
Indriyarth Heen Ati Mithya Yoga (Deficiet excessive & inappropriate indulgence of senses with their objects)
Indriyarth Heen Ati Mithya Yoga translated into English is deficient, excessive and inappropriate indulgence of senses with their objects.
We find that our mind communicates with the world only through five senses viz eye, ear, nose, tongue and skin. These senses infact send signals of contacts with their objects to brain which on receiving them analyses them and makes decisions. Ayurveda has profoundly taken into consideration deficient, excessive and inappropriate indulgence of senses with their objects as responsible factor for causing mental stress and diseases.
Ayurveda while explaining these factors as responsible for diseases also emphasises that balanced involvement of senses with their objects results in stress free mind and perfect state of health.
Managing Hypertension with Ayurvedic Wisdom
Ayurveda looks at its management holistically and is based on principle expressed in Sanskrit language as “Nidaan Parivarjan Hee Chikitsa” which means elimination or prevention of the cause, in fact is treatment.
Aaharen Chikitsa (Correction of food habits)
Aaharen Chikitsa translated in English means treatment through food or let food be your medicine. Here Aaharen means food and Chikitsa means treatment.
Healthy foods to prevent & treat high blood pressure include vegetables and fruits rich in potassium which helps kidneys to get rid of sodium and maintain blood pressure. Among fruits blue berries, bananas, kiwis, watermelons, pomegranates, apples, oranges, mangoes, apricots, plums, pears, grapes, avocados are recommended. Regarding vegetables garlic, leafy vegetables, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, tomatoes, beans, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, peas, cauliflowers, carrots, celery, radish, egg plant, bitter guards etc. are useful. Nuts like walnuts, pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans and seeds like pumpkin seeds, melon seeds, sunflower seeds are good for keeping blood pressure in normal range. Compounds like omega 3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, magnesium, fibre, vitamin phytosterols etc. present in different nuts and seeds maintain good cholesterol and keep artery walls elastic.
Low glycaemic index foods such as oats, barley, chick peas, blackgram, millets are good as they keep obesity away. In our diet 45% to 65% calories should come from carbohydrates, (there are 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate). 10 – 35% of calories should be from proteins (a gram of protein contains 4 calories). 20-35% calories should be from fat (a gram of fat contains around 8 calories). Salt in diet should not be more than 2.5 gram.
Vihaaren Chikitsa (Correction of lifestyle)
Vihaaren Chikitsa is a sanskrit term for treatment through life style. Here Vihaar means life style.
For managing & treating high blood pressure, we should have active life style. For 18-64 years age group 15-30 minutes, moderate physical activity or 75-150 minutes vigorous activity per week is recommended.
In respect of sleep, we must follow natural bio-clock. Young people (18-25 years) and adults (26-64 years) should have 7 hour sleep whereas seniors of 65 years age and older should have 8 hours sleep otherwise we cannot escape, not only high blood pressure but many other life style diseases.
Digital distraction, deficient, excessive or inappropriate indulgence of senses with their objects and all other factors which produce mental stress should be avoided.
Satvajaye Chikitsa (Improving moral quotient)
Satvajaye Chikitsa is another sanskrit term for winning over of wicked mentality by pious and rightful attitude. One should refrain from smoking and drinking. Eight limbs of Yoga which offer good physical health and improve spiritual and moral quotient should be followed.
Sanshodhan Chikitsa (Purification & detoxification)
Sanshodhan Chikitsa means detoxification and purification treatment. The term Sanshodhan means purification. Panch-karma (panch means five and karma means procedures) an Ayurvedic speciality which manages any diseases at deeper level is quite useful for healing it. In fact, it detoxifies body, so that diseases do not recur easily. Shirodhara, a pre panch karma procedure is useful in digital detoxification. Some of the panch- karma procedures correct gut microbiome levels, a significant factor for health.
Herbs for High blood Pressure
Powder of dry roots of this plant is used. Garlic is used all over the world as food. For health benefits, it should be consumed raw 5-10 gram daily. Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) is a tree which grows in many parts of the world. Its bark powder or extract is used. Guggulu (Cammiphora mukul) is also a tree, its gum powder is used. Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is cultivated in many parts of the world. Its dry root has great role in preventing and managing this disease. Pippali (Piper longum), Punarnava (Boerhavia diffusa), Gokshru (Tribulus terrestris), Varuna (Crataeva nurvala), Triphala powder a mixture of dry fruits of Emblica officinalis, Terminalia bellerica and Terminalia chebula are useful in high blood pressure. In the interest of a person suffering from it, it is advised that these herbs should be taken after personal consultation of a qualified Ayurveda Physician.
After understanding High Blood Pressure and its Ayurvedic Management, let us pledge to serve the ailing humanity through India's vedic wisdom in health and medicine, The Ayurveda, in a holistic way.
Dr. Raj Kumar Sharma
Dayanand Ayurvedic College, Jalandhar.
Founder Editor, DAV Ayurveda for Holistic Health.
Trainer and Assessor, Australia.
Mob.: +91 98142-04443