In order to keep blood pressure within recommended guidelines, adopting a healthy lifestyle is essential. So, cutting back on salt, eating more fruit and vegetables, getting more active and stopping smoking should be your first line of defense.

Another way to help lower blood pressure could be by managing stress. Blood pressure naturally comes down when you practice relaxation techniques – even breathing deeply for a few minutes can help to reduce tension and lower BP. And while there’s no hard evidence to support a direct link between stress and high blood pressure, the Mayo Clinic’s advice is that managing stress levels will help improve overall health and lower blood pressure in the longer term.

What kind of activities reduce stress?

According to the Professor Cary Cooper, occupational health expert at the University of Lancaster, the key to good stress management is building emotional strength. Being in control of your situation, having a good network of friends and family and adopting a positive outlook are all key.

Breathing techniques including abdominal breathing can help control the nervous system and encourage the body to relax. Other ways to elicit the relaxation response including meditation, yoga, tai chi and qi gong. The trick is finding the best way for you to calm your body and incorporate this into your daily stress-busting routine.

If your blood pressure is diagnosed as being high, you may need to take medications, but even in this instance, stress management can be a helpful addition. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) reported that adults who had followed an eight week program of relaxation and stress management techniques showed a decreased need for medications to control blood pressure.

      What you should consider when embarking on a program of relaxation techniques

    • The great thing about practicing relaxation techniques is that there are no side-effects, although people with heart disease are recommended to talk to their doctor before embarking on any progressive muscle relaxation techniques.
    • Relaxation techniques should be looked at as helpful in addition to – rather than the only approach – to treating serious condition such as high blood pressure. So never postpone seeing your health care provider in the first instance.
    • OAlways ask to see the credentials of the practitioner or instructor of any complimentary health approach.
    • Read all the latest research studies regarding how relaxation has been shown to help high blood pressure. You will not then realistically be expecting too much or too little of the practice.
    • Inform your health care providers that you intend to use complimentary health techniques in order to ensure safe, coordinated care. For help and advice about what to talk about with your health practitioner see NCAM’s Time to Talk Campaign.

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