The Scoop on High Blood Pressure (and Practicing Presence)

  • Hannah Aylward
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The Scoop on High Blood Pressure (and Practicing Presence)

by Hannah Aylward


In the United States, approximately 85 million people have high blood pressure. That’s about one in every three adults over the age of 20, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Wow. Let’s break it down a bit.

Blood pressure is the amount of force exerted against the walls of the arteries as blood flows through them. The heart pumps blood around the body with low oxygen blood pumped towards the lungs, so that oxygen supplies can be replenished. Then the oxygen-rich blood is pumped by the heart around the body to supply our muscles and cells. Pretty amazing, right?

This pumping naturally creates pressure in the arteries. If a person has high blood pressure, or hypertension, it means that the walls of the arteries are receiving too much pressure on a constant basis (1).


Some say that there is no identifiable cause for high blood pressure, however, there is strong evidence linking some risk factors to the likelihood of developing the condition. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Stress
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Poor diet, specifically one high in salt and “bad” fats like trans fats and saturated fats
  • Poor sleep


Unfortunately, we are constantly bombarded with things in our day-to-day lives that would potentially raise our blood pressure levels like rushing out the door to get to work on time, skipping breakfast, sitting in traffic, and then finally getting to the office to sit down to an inbox full of unread emails. Yikes. This would naturally raise anyone’s blood pressure. So let’s talk about how we can mitigate the risks factors, and keep hypertension at bay.


How to Treat/Manage Hypertension


Exercising for 30 to 60 minutes five days a week will usually lower a person's blood pressure by 4 to 9 mmHg. However, be mindful here! HIIT training five days a week probably isn’t the best bet, but a sweaty and nourishing yoga flow? Sign us up. And always check with your doctor first.


Try this Class » Yoga for Inner Peace with Adi Amar


Losing Weight

If you are an adult who is overweight or obese, losing 5 to 10 percent of your initial weight over about six months can improve your health. Even losing just 3 to 5 percent of your weight can improve blood pressure readings (2).


Breathing Exercises

Try closing your eyes and taking a deep breath while you count to five, then count to five again as you exhale. Do this six times. Now, how do you feel? Breathing exercises are simple and efficient. First, conscious breathing begins to calm the sympathetic nervous system, then blood flow to the body’s tissues increases which reduces resistance in your blood vessels and increases your exercise tolerance. The diaphragm then moves up and down, facilitating blood flow towards the heart. So finally, blood pressure begins to lower.

A study in 2005 showed that simply taking six deep breaths in a period of 30 seconds reduced systolic blood pressure by 3.4 to 3.9 units compared to just sitting quietly. These results are consistent with a long line of evidence suggesting that deep breathing can lower blood pressure (3). 


Try this Class » Health + Happiness Meditation with Adi Amar


Eating a Healthy, Plant-based Diet

Increasing the amount of plant-based foods (shoutout to fruits and veggies) in your diet is a must. Research also shows that certain plant foods are especially good at treating hypertension. These include flax seeds, vegetable juices, prunes, blueberries, asparagus, and dark chocolate (go for 75% cacao content or higher) (4). In addition, the DASH diet, a whole foods diet low in processed foods and high in fiber and phytonutrients, has been shown to reduce blood pressure (5).



Ah, our beloved, proving to have yet another benefit. While meditation is certainly a part of this, the movement and sweating that come with yoga offer additional health benefits. Studies suggest that yoga can help to lower blood pressure (6).


Try this Class » The Power of Presence with Neesha Zollinger


Catching Some Zs

Sleep is our number one time to reset, rest, and clean house. To no surprise, poor sleep can result in inflammation, stiffer arteries, and elevated blood pressure (7). Start prioritizing sleep today and not only for your blood pressure’s sake. Having trouble sleeping? Check out our class on Yoga for Insomnia.

When it comes down to it, taking an active role in a healthier lifestyle will help improve blood pressure levels. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, conscious exercising, maintaining proper body weight, avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol, getting proper sleep, and practicing mindfulness make up the foundation for controlling blood pressure.

I encourage you to take control of your health and step into your power. While medication can absolutely help hypertension, and in some cases is very necessary, many natural and easy practices can help lower and better manage blood pressure. Try incorporating them into your daily routine. Your body and mind will thank you.



Hannah Aylward

Hannah Aylward is a Certified Health Coach, nutrition consultant, fitness instructor, healthy living expert, and founder of HAN. She helps both men and women around the world lose weight, heal skin disturbances, balance hormones, heal gut imbalances and feel at home in their bodies through healthy eating, movement, mindfulness and positive self-talk. Her goal is to help others “learn the tools that they need to live the lives they deserve”. Get to know her by visiting her website and following her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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