High blood pressure or hypertension, is rampant in our society.  Current estimates from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show that 48.1% or 119 million adults in the United States suffer from hypertension, but only a 1/4 of those diagnosed actually have their high blood pressure under control.  This typically means that they are taking prescription medications to artificially lower their blood pressure.  And while this can be a good starting point, especially is severe, life threatening cases, the natural route is always better.  This means making better lifestyle choices and learning to deal with stress more effectively.

Blood pressure is a good indicator of cardiovascular health and when it gets too high, it can increase the risk of heart attacks, heart disease or even a stroke.  There are different levels of hypertension, but the “normal” blood pressure reading should be less than 120 (systolic) over 80 (diastolic).  The top number is the systolic pressure and it is the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats.  The bottom number is the diastolic pressure and it represents the pressure in the arteries between beats when the heart relaxes.

When a person has hypertension, they may experience symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, flushing, blurred vision or chest pain.  However, most people have no symptoms whatsoever, unless their blood pressure becomes very high.  The good news is that there are things you can do to lower and in many cases even reverse hypertension without the use of prescription medications.  Exercise is one of these tools.

I know.  Everybody says it and most people don’t want to do it, but exercise is important, especially as we age and our bodies change.  Regular exercise, meaning a minimum of 30 minutes, 5 days a week, can really impact your overall health.  But which type of exercise is best?  That can be a very difficult question to answer because not everyone can do or likes to do the same things.  In the past, most studies have shown that aerobic exercise is the best for cardiovascular health.  But a new study has just come out that indicates that an ancient form of martial arts might actually be better.

Tai Chi involves gentle movements and balance.  It was developed by martial artists many centuries ago in China.  Along with the gentle movements, tai chi also incorporates deep breathing and mental focus, making it a wonderful form of exercise for stress and anxiety.  Tai Chi can be utilized by anyone, even people who may be unable to walk or stand.

The study was a randomized clinical trial that included 342 adults, all around age 50, who all had pre-hypertension, meaning their resting blood pressure was 120-139 / 80-89.  The participants were divided into two groups.  One group did tai chi and the other group did aerobic exercise.  Each group participated in 4 one hour supervised sessions per week for one year.  At the end of the year, those participants who had been doing tai chi showed a decrease of 7 points in their systolic blood pressure reading, while the participants that had been doing aerobic exercise, only saw a 4 point drop.  While the numbers may not seem significant, they actually are because the longer someone continues to do tai chi, the better their numbers will become, hopefully preventing a cardiovascular event.

Tai Chi helps to lower blood pressure by improving circulation, reducing stress and anxiety and promoting overall mental well being.  Tai Chi is often referred to as “moving meditation” because it focuses on slow, deliberate movements and deep breathing.  The movements in tai chi are designed to flow seamlessly from one into the next, creating a harmonious and meditative practice.

If you are someone dealing with hypertension and looking for ways to manage it without prescription medications, tai chi can be a wonderful addition to your daily life.  There are several places around Indianapolis that offer regular tai chi classes.  But if you prefer to practice in the comfort of your own home, there are also online programs you can purchase.  Regardless, tai chi can be an easy way to get in the exercise you need, while also balancing and calming your body.  Check it out!

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