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Silent treatment for the Silent Killer

“Hello. What brings you here today? Have a seat and let me take your blood pressure.”

Sound familiar?

Blood pressure is priority one of a doctor’s visit. In 2017, the American College of Cardiology changed the criteria for high blood pressure. Normal blood pressure is lower than 120/80. This is an update from 2003 when the norm was 120-129/70-80. Blood pressure higher than 180/105 can double your risk of death from stroke. A diagnosis of hypertension can be given after two high readings in the doctor’s office.

If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor will ask about your exercise and diet. There may be some changes you can make there that will help bring your pressure under control. If those don’t work, or you are really high, your doctor may ask you to take a medication. You may wonder, is there an alternative?

An alternative therapist will suggest changes to activity and diet like your doctor did, but the therapist may also suggest a lesson in meditation – a silent treatment for the silent killer.

Blood pressure is the body’s natural response to stress. In prehistoric times, we needed this response once in a while to flee from predators. Today’s stress, though, comes to us daily from fleeing our work, our health or even our family. When stress is high, blood pressure is high. The longer the pressure is high, the higher the risk of death.

Sometimes, high blood pressure can give you a headache, but mostly you may feel no different. This is how high blood pressure was coined as “the silent killer.”

The word meditation may bring visions of monks in robes and you may not see how this could help. You don’t have to sign up to the nearest Ashram or don any sheets to learn to meditate. You need only bring your attention to the rhythm of your breath. This action alone can lower your blood pressure. If your breath is slow, your blood pressure is low. This is how the silent treatment works…

During meditation, the body’s stress response can be turned off. The longer this response is off, the lower the blood pressure. Imagine your blood pressure like a teapot. The cold teapot sits silently on the stove. When heat (or stress) is added, the steam pushes through the whistle and it blows. Meditation therapy teaches you to keep your teapot cold, regardless of the heat. Meditation therapy offers a deep physical rest and mental relaxation. This is in direct opposition to stress.

Medical News Today shared 7 major types of meditation in an article in December of 2017. They are as simple as loving kindness (like thinking of someone you love), mindfulness, guided visualization, breath awareness or complex as Kundalini, Zen Meditation and Transcendental Meditation.

You can try them all to find the one that keeps your kettle cool. Meditation therapy for high blood pressure is not to change you into a robed, mountain dweller, but to recognize the body’s stress response and control it. By keeping your kettle silent, you avoid the silent killer.

References:

Villianes, Zawn, 2017. What is the best type of meditation? Medical News Today. Retrieved from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320392.php

2017 ACC/AHA/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/AGS/APhA/ASH/ASPC/NMA/PCNA Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults: A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. J Am Coll Cardiol 2017;Nov 13:[Epub ahead of print].

Photo: Rainah Yedlock Gillis, 2017

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