For people whose hypertension is triggered or exacerbated by emotional stress and tension, mind/body medicine can be an effective treatment. Research has shown that several mind/body therapies have the power to decrease high blood pressure, sometimes by as much as 10 mm Hg.
Biofeedback training, which instructs people to alter certain involuntary functions of the body, is particularly recommended for people with hypertension. It involves using sensors to hook a patient up to a biofeedback monitor, which reveals the levels of heart rate, muscle tension, body temperature, or other functions. Using this information, the patient is taught to change one or more of these levels. Relaxation techniques and guided imagery exercises are usually part of the instruction.
One of two training types are typically used to treat hypertension: electromyograph biofeedback, which measures muscle tension (on the forehead, for example), and thermal biofeedback, which measures body temperature. A study at the Medical College of Ohio showed that patients who used diuretics and biofeedback were five times more likely to lower their high blood pressure than patients who only used drugs.
Other helpful mind/body therapies include:
- Spirituality -- Researchers have discovered links to fostering a religious commitment and reduced hypertension.
- Meditation -- Researchers have also shown daily meditation to lower hypertension.
- Hypnotherapy -- Hypnotic trances can relieve tension.
- Yoga -- Poses and breathing exercises are effective stress busters.
Here's a sample relaxation breathing exercise that might be helpful in relieving stress:
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Wear loose, nonrestrictive clothing.
- Close your eyes. Begin breathing slowly and deeply.
- When exhaling, imagine tension effortlessly flowing out of your body.
- As you inhale, picture yourself filling your body with fresh air and energy.
- Continue the slow, deep breathing for as long as you are comfortable.
- When you are ready, slowly return to your normal rate and rhythm of breathing.