Alternative Therapies May Help Lower Blood Pressure
But Don’t Match Traditional Methods
New scientific statement from American Heart
Association looks at yoga, slow breathing, meditation, hand-grip
exercise and more - Over half of those 60+ have hypertension
23, 2013 – Don’t kid yourself about effective ways to reduce your
life-threatening high blood pressure – some alternative methods can
help, especially if they involve physical exercise, but they shouldn’t
replace the proven methods long promoted by the American Heart
Alternative therapies such as aerobic exercise,
resistance or strength training, and isometric hand grip exercises may
help reduce your
blood pressure, according
to information from AHA in a new scientific statement published in its
The association said alternative approaches could
help people with blood pressure levels higher than 120/80 mm Hg and
those who can’t tolerate or don’t respond well to standard medications.
However, alternative therapies shouldn’t replace
proven methods to lower blood pressure — including physical activity,
managing weight, not smoking or drinking excess alcohol, eating a low
sodium balanced diet and taking medications when prescribed, the
Senior citizens and high blood pressure
High blood pressure - a major risk factor for
heart attack and
stroke - affects more
than 26 percent of the population worldwide and contributes to more than
13 percent of premature deaths.
Many people get high blood pressure as they get
older, according to the
Senior Health Website of
the National Institutes of Health. In fact, over half of all Americans
age 60 and older have high blood pressure. About 72 million American
adults - nearly 1 in 3 - have high blood pressure.
An expert panel assessed three alternative remedy
categories: exercise regimens; behavioral therapies such as meditation;
and non-invasive procedures or devices including acupuncture and
device-guided slow breathing. The panel did not review dietary and
“There aren’t many large well-designed studies
lasting longer than a few weeks looking at alternative therapies, yet
patients have a lot of questions about their value,” said Robert D.
Brook, M.D., Chair of the panel and an associate professor of medicine
at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
“A common request from patients is, ‘I don’t like
to take medications, what can I do to lower my blood pressure?’ We
wanted to provide some direction.”
The alternative therapies rarely caused serious
side effects and posed few health risks, but the analysis revealed some
approaches were more beneficial than others and could be part of a
comprehensive blood pressure-lowering treatment plan.
Brook and colleagues reviewed data published in
2006-11, including 1,000 studies on behavioral therapies, non-invasive
procedures and devices, and three types of exercise (aerobic, resistance
or weight training and isometric exercises, most commonly handgrip
The studies also examined the effects of yoga,
different styles of meditation, biofeedback methods, acupuncture,
device-guided breathing, relaxation and stress reduction techniques.
Also called: Benign
essential hypertension, Essential hypertension, HBP, HTN,
Blood pressure is the
force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries.
Each time your heart beats, it pumps out blood into the
Your blood pressure is
highest when your heart beats, pumping the blood. This is called
systolic pressure. When your heart is at rest, between beats,
your blood pressure falls. This is the diastolic pressure.
Your blood pressure
reading uses these two numbers, the systolic and diastolic
pressures. Usually they are written one above or before the
other. A reading of
● 120/80 or lower is
normal blood pressure
● 140/90 or higher is
high blood pressure
● Between 120 and 139
for the top number, or between 80 and 89 for the bottom number
● All three types of exercise reduced blood
pressure. Walking programs provided modest benefit while, somewhat
surprisingly, four weeks of isometric hand grip exercises resulted in
some of the most impressive improvements - a 10 percent drop in systolic
and diastolic blood pressure. However, isometric exercise should be
avoided among people with severely-uncontrolled high blood pressure
(180/110 mm Hg or higher).
● Behavioral therapies such as biofeedback and
transcendental meditation may help lower blood pressure by a small
amount. However, there’s not sufficient data to support using other
types of meditation.
● Strong clinical evidence is also lacking to
recommend yoga and other relaxation techniques for reducing blood
● There isn’t enough evidence to recommend
acupuncture for lowering blood pressure, particularly given the
complexities involved in employing this treatment. However,
device-guided slow breathing did prove effective in lowering blood
pressure when performed for 15-minute sessions three to four times a
“Most alternative approaches reduce systolic blood
pressure by only 2-10 mm Hg; whereas standard doses of a blood
pressure-lowering drug reduce systolic blood pressure by about 10-15 mm
Hg,” Brook said.
“So, alternative approaches can be added to a
treatment regimen after patients discuss their goals with their
Given the global public health burden of high blood
pressure more research is needed to look at the long-term cardiovascular
health impact of alternative therapies and the effects of combining them
together or adding them to other proven lifestyle measures, Brook said.
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