Do you have a home blood pressure monitor? More and more people are using them regularly. They can help you keep an eye on your blood pressure, and they also eliminate the risk of a high reading resulting from anxiety over being tested in a doctor’s office (so-called “white coat hypertension.”) Hypertension usually has no discernible symptoms. Measuring it regularly is the only way to know. And it is more important than ever to know.
One morning last November, 100 million healthy American adults woke up with hypertension. Their blood pressure had not actually changed, but the medical community’s consensus on what constitutes hypertension changed. The change occurred because the researchers of the American Heart Association, who are ultimately responsible for setting blood pressure guidelines, determined the change would be an effective way to inspire earlier treatment for what is ultimately a dangerous medical condition.
Blood pressure, which is a measure of the pressure inside your large systemic arteries, is expressed as two numbers, one for when the pressure is at its maximum during a single heartbeat (systolic), and one for when it is at its minimum between heartbeats (diastolic). Before last November, high blood pressure was 140/90. As of last November, high blood pressure is 130/80. The healthy level, which was unchanged by the new guidelines, is below 120/80. (The numbers signify millimeters of a column of mercury, which is how the traditional blood pressure cuff works.)
The area between the new high and the old high (i.e., the systolic 130s and the diastolic 80s) has proved to be more dangerous than previously thought. The lead author of the new guideline, Paul K. Whelton, M.B., M.D., M.Sc, said this about that area: “You’ve already doubled your risk of cardiovascular complications compared to those with a normal level of blood pressure. We want to be straight with people – if you already have a doubling of risk, you need to know about it. It doesn’t mean you need medication, but it’s a yellow light that you need to be lowering your blood pressure, mainly with non-drug approaches.”
What does Whelton mean by “non-drug approaches”? They are lifestyle changes that we all know but don’t always follow:
- lose weight if you are overweight
- quit smoking
- limit alcohol intake (2 drinks per day for men, 1 for women)
- eat a healthy diet, with a major emphasis on fruits and vegetables
- limit sodium intake to 2300 milligrams per day
- get aerobic exercise daily
While the American Heart Association doesn’t specifically recommend it, there is another non-drug approach that helps in controlling blood pressure: regular float pod sessions. Long-standing research has shown that float pod sessions (what researchers call “floatation REST”) lower blood pressure not only during the sessions, but between sessions as well. In addition, it lowers blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol (between sessions as well as during sessions).
If you’re one of the 48% of adult Americans with hypertension (note you have about a one in two chance this is so), lose weight, quit smoking, limit alcohol, see to your diet, get aerobic exercise, and take some time to float. Even if you don’t have hypertension, floating might well help you keep from getting it. And besides, it’s probably the most profound relaxation you can experience without sedatives.
Book a float pod session at Peak Recovery & Health Center.