One of the most common health conditions in the U.S. is hypertension. Nearly 50% of adults have hypertension, or high blood pressure, yet many don’t even know they have it.
But just because high blood pressure is so common doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Hypertension can put people at risk for serious health conditions, such as heart attacks or strokes. Lifestyle changes – including a better diet and more exercise – can help you lower or prevent hypertension. One recommended exercise according to research is yoga.
What Causes Hypertension?
Blood pressure is the amount of force your heart exerts against the walls of your blood vessels. When your heart is healthy and your blood vessels are flexible, not a lot of force is required to circulate blood throughout your body.
However, if your heart is stressed or your blood vessels become rigid and inflexible, the heart must pump harder to circulate blood. The result is more strain on the heart and damage to the walls of your blood vessels, increasing your risk of heart attack, stroke, and other dangerous health conditions.
The risk factors for high blood pressure include:
- Family history
- Age: Blood vessels naturally become less elastic as we get older, increasing the risk of high blood pressure.
- Gender: Men have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure in middle age, while women are more likely as they get older.
- Chronic kidney disease (CHD)
- Unhealthy lifestyle habits such as stress, being overweight, smoking, drinking, and lack of physical exercise.
How yoga can help your blood pressure
Numerous studies have shown the benefits that yoga can have on hypertension.
One study tested people who have been treated for high blood pressure who begin practicing yoga 3x a week. The results showed a significant reduction in their blood pressure. Another study found the effect of yoga on high blood pressure is even more significant when breathwork and meditation are part of the practice.
Even a one-hour yoga class can provide measurable results on the flexibility of the arteries. The more flexible your blood vessels, the less pressure required for blood flow and the lower your risk of hypertension. Researchers found people had more flexible arteries after practicing yoga.
If you have high blood pressure, talk to your doctor before taking up any exercise regimen. In some cases, certain yoga poses, like inversions (headstand, should stand, etc) should be avoided. Always follow your doctor’s guidance and pay attention to how your blood pressure responds to your yoga practice.
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