Agatha M. Thrash, M.D.
High blood pressure gives few symptoms and most people feel healthy during the early stages. Yet, if undetected and untreated, high blood pressure can be a contributing cause of heart trouble, blood vessel disease, and degenerative disease of the kidneys. Reaction to various physical and emotional influences may cause the blood pressure to rise. These influences include diet, exercise, exposure to cold, anxiety, quarrelsomeness in the home, guilt, or other emotional distress. Blood pressure thus elevated can remain at an unhealthy high, even if it fluctuates up and down for a time.
A low blood pressure is desirable, apparently the lower the better. We do not recognize medically a blood pressure reading that is too low, except in cases of shock. When the blood pressure is low, if the pulse pressure is sufficient to maintain circulation, it is considered normal. Pulse pressure is the difference between the systolic and the diastolic readings (the high and low readings) obtained in determining the blood pressure. The average pulse pressure is 40; if it falls below 10, it is inadequate to maintain circulation.
We do not know the exact level at which high blood pressure begins to be damaging, but statistical comparisons show that vascular diseases are more common as the blood pressure rises. Since high blood pressure seems to have a definite tendency to be inherited, those having high blood pressure in the family should be especially careful on all the points given to prevent the disorder. The following items are given to assist one to keep a normal blood pressure:
- Exercise is important in keeping the blood vessels in healthy tone, equalizing the "tensions" between the autonomic and somatic divisions of the nervous system, and in clearing the blood of excessive fats or sugars. Do some useful labor, such as gardening or yard work, at a moderate pace for about 1 hour each day. The pace should be what is described as "vigorous but not violent." Outdoor labor is usually more beneficial than indoor labor. Even the sense of satisfaction of work well done is stabilizing to the blood pressure.
- Run in place for 6 minutes twice daily to reduce the blood pressure.
- Starting with the muscles of the legs, thighs, and back, tense the muscles as much as possible and hold for several seconds. Gradually relax. Next, tense the muscles of the abdomen and chest. Repeat the tensing and slow relaxation process with these areas until all tension is gone. Proceed to the arms, neck, and head. Use this routine twice a day.
- As a tranquilizer, take a long walk at a rapid pace to use up excess nervous energy. Concentrate on the beauties of nature, the sky and trees, the rocks and flowers as you walk. The stress of life can be largely eliminated by proper attention to exercise, a non-stimulatory diet, and a proper philosophy of life. There should not be enough stress within the available number of hours per day to cause a healthy person to have a breakdown, either mental or physical. A long walk at a rapid pace or vigorous gardening can reduce nervous tension.
- Practice a deep breathing exercise three times daily. The deep breathing exercise consists of taking a very deep breath held to the count of 20, exhaling and holding to the count of 10. This can be done while driving. Repeat 20 to 60 times.
- Diet is important is 5 ways: First, use a non-stimulatory diet, free from caffeine drinks, chocolate, alcohol, spices, and fermented or aged products. A substance in cheese called tyrosine breaks down to tyramine, a chemical capable of constricting blood vessels and causing headaches or an increase in blood pressure. It is well for all to leave off cheese for the sake of healthy blood vessel reactions. Second, use few concentrated foods, but eat freely of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains: non-concentrated foods. Third, to prevent high blood pressure, do not use more than one-half to one teaspoon of salt per day. Baking soda and baking powder are also high in sodium, as well as being unhealthful in other ways. All baked goods using these substances should be avoided. After high blood pressure has developed, salt, baking soda, baking powder, most antacids, even toothpaste and all other sources of sodium may need to be eliminated for a time until the blood pressure is entirely normal and stable. Do not forget that sodium is in many over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Sodium is present in most antacids. Fourth, free fats promote high blood pressure. The blood vessels are apparently sensitive to fats and the entire cardiovascular system responds to their presence by maintaining greater tension. Fifth, the diet must be such as to reduce the weight if it is above ideal.
- In a program to reduce severely elevated blood pressure, begin with a day of fasting, followed by three days in which only apples are eaten (raw, cooked, stewed, dried or frozen) at each of three meals. Apples have been found by Dr. B. S. Levin to have a beneficial effect on the blood pressure. After the three days of apples, for the following two days eat only fruit and salt-free whole grain bread for breakfast, and vegetables and the salt-free bread for dinner. Eat only one apple for supper (omit supper if overweight).
- Careful attention to proper clothing of the extremities is essential to calm the autonomic nervous system and to equalize the circulation. Cool skin causes an alarm reaction in the autonomic nerves. Chilled tissues cause the blood to shunt from the extremities to the interior of the body where vital organs are congested and their function is made less efficient. Keep all skin warm except during active sweating for cooling. Check especially the hands and feet, the backs of the arms, and the sides of the thighs. Wear only clothing loose enough to move up and down freely. Adaptation to messages from the skin signaling chilling takes a large tax from nerve energy resources.
- For patients who can tolerate it the "short cold hip bath" is beneficial in lowering high blood pressure. For the first treatment, start with water temperature at 85° to 88°. The patient sits with only the hips in a tub of water for 3 to 3.5 minutes. Reduce the water temperature about five degrees each time the bath is taken until a temperature of 65° is achieved. Repeat the bath daily as needed. There is an initial elevation of blood pressure of five to fifteen points when the bath begins, but soon the blood pressure begins to drop.
- A neutral bath for 10-30 minutes at the end of the day in a tub of water that feels neither warm nor cool (92° to 96°) has been shown to have a remarkable calming effect and often lowers the blood pressure. A hot bath at 104° for 20-30 minutes will invariably reduce blood pressure. After the bath, cool gradually while lying well-covered in bed. After 30 minutes, when sweating has stopped, take a regular shower, friction skin dry with a coarse towel, and dress in dry clothing.
- During each moment that your mind is not occupied with active labor or social discourse, practice concentrating on certain virtues (love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, meekness, faith, etc.), and the attributes of God (His eternalness, faithfulness, honesty, loving-kindness, creativity, intelligence, etc.)
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