The Relaxation Response

As we all know, high blood pressure is a problem for many seniors. Along with our age, high blood pressure creeps up as well. A younger senior might be diagnosed as “pre-hypertensive” and because it’s easier for doctors to simply prescribe an anti-hypertensive medication rather than to encourage lifestyle changes, they find themselves on a pill or two. It is possible, however, that the drug could do more harm than good and could cause unnecessary anxiety. Herbert Benson, MD, author of bestseller, The Relaxation Response, offers an alternative.

Benson believes that by practicing the Relaxation Response, you will be better able to cope with difficult situations by allowing your body to achieve a more balanced state through the physiologic effects of the Relaxation Response. However, stopping the practice will stop the benefits within several days. There are no side effects when practiced once or twice daily for 10 to 20 minutes.

On page 35 of his book, he gives a case study of a woman with moderate hypertension with a family history of high blood pressure. After 14 months of practice she says:

The Relaxation Response has contributed to many changes in my life. Not only has it made me more relaxed physically and mentally, but also it has contributed to changes in my personality and way of life. I seem to have become calmer, more open and receptive especially to ideas which either have been unknown to me or very different from my past way of life. I like the way I am becoming; more patient, overcoming some fears especially around my physical health and stamina. I feel stronger physically and mentally. I take better care of myself. I am more committed to my daily exercise and see it as an integral part of my life. I really enjoy it, too! I drink less alcohol, take less medicine. The positive feedback which I experience as a result of the Relaxation Response and the lowered blood pressure readings make me feel I am attempting to transcend a family history replete with hypertensive heart disease.

There are two essential ingredients to the Relaxation Response:

  1. Repetition of a word, sound, phrase, prayer, or muscular activity.
  2. Passively disregarding everyday thoughts that inevitably come to mind and returning to your repetition.

Here are the simple steps to elicit the Relaxation Response:

  1. Pick a focus word, short phrase, or prayer that is firmly rooted in your belief system.
  2. Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
  3. Close your eyes.
  4. Relax your muscles, progressing from your feet to your calves, thighs, abdomen, shoulders, head, and neck.
  5. Breathe slowly and naturally, and as you do, say your focus word, sound, phrase, or prayer silently to yourself as you exhale.
  6. Assume a passive attitude. Don’t worry about how well you’re doing. When other thoughts come to mind, simply say to yourself, “Oh well,” and gently return to your repetition.
  7. Continue for 10 to 20 minutes.
  8. Do not stand immediately. Continue sitting quietly for a minute or so, allowing other thoughts to return. Then open your eyes and sit for another minute before rising.
  9. Practice the technique once or twice daily. Good times to do so are before breakfast and before dinner.

According to Benson, you can even elicit the Relaxation Response while exercising. If you are jogging or walking, pay attention to the cadence of your feet on the ground — left, right, left, right, left right — and if other thoughts come into your mind say — oh well — and return to — left, right, left, right. He reminds you to keep your eyes open! Swimmers can pay attention to the tempo of their strokes, cyclists to the whir of the wheels, and dancers to the beat of the music. So find a creative way to incorporate the Relaxation Response into your life.

Whole Grains and Blood Pressure

Wheat

For many seniors, as we age, our blood pressure seems to creep up as well. Here’s one solution to lower blood pressure naturally. Refrain from reaching for any white grain such as white rice or white bread. Instead, replace it with brown rice and whole grain bread. In a study of overweight adults in their 50’s, those that replaced refined grains (rice, cereal, bread) with whole grains lost weight as well as a drop in their systolic blood pressure (top number) of five to six points.

High blood pressure can raise your risk for a heart attack, congestive heart failure, kidney disease and blindness among the many problems. Other diseases such as diabetes can raise your risk even further.

The study suggested that lowering blood pressure by eating three servings of whole-grain foods daily could reduce the risk of coronary artery disease by at least 15 percent and stroke by 25 percent or more.  Generally, refined or processed foods have more sodium which is known to contribute to high blood pressure. However, the study did not define exactly how whole grains might contribute to the lowering of blood pressure.

Check this Web site of the Harvard School of Public Health for more information on the benefits of whole grains.

With all of the known side effects of blood pressure medication which even includes heart failure, taking prescription medication should be your last option.  Pre-hypertension or even hypertension can often be controlled with diet and exercise.

February is American Heart Month. On the Web site of the American Heart Association, you will see some staggering figures: 2,200 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day, it is the number one cause of death of women 20 and older, more women die of heart disease than the next four causes of death combined, including cancer. It is the number one killer in America, also known as the “silent killer.”Enhanced by Zemanta

Chronic Dehydration

For the past three weeks, I have covered different aspects of water — alkaline water (click here), how much water you should drink (click here), and signs of dehydration (click here). It goes without saying that water is extremely important. Obviously, we can’t live without it. But what could happen if the dehydration is chronic?

I found an interesting Web site, http://dehydrationsymptoms.org, that covered the symptoms of chronic dehydration. Chronic dehydration has no acute symptoms, but affects everyone who does not consume adequate fluids. Most people believe that these symptoms have nothing to do with dehydration. It’s an interesting array of problems. They include the following:

Exhaustion, lack of energy. Dehydration reduces tissue enzymatic activity.

Constipation. Normally the food getting to the intestinal tract contains much water. The intestine walls absorb the water and also absorb the nutrients dissolved in the water to supply the body with the both. The rest of the food that was not absorbed turns into the stool. If you don’t drink water enough the intestine takes too much water from the stool that leads to constipation.

Eating disorders. Chronic dehydration reduces the digestive juices secretion as digestive juiced contain water.

Low or high blood pressure. The blood volume is insufficient to fill all the arteries, veins and capillaries of the body. It results in low pressure or if the body reacts by constricting the arteries than in high pressure.

Gastritis, gastric ulcer. To protect the stomach wall from injury by gastric acid, the stomach is lined with mucous membrane which contains 98% water. Its structure is deteriorated in the case of dehydration leading to poor protective action.

Problems with the respiratory system. Mucous membranes of respiratory system should be slightly humidified in order to protect the respiratory system from harmful substances contained in the inhaled air.

Improper acid-alkaline balance. Dehydration slows down excretion of water with the unnecessary substances away from the body.

Extra weight and obesity. We often overeat because we need water contained in food. Thirst is often confused with hunger.

Eczema. Your body requires minimum one liter of water daily to dilute the toxins, skin irritants.

Cholesterol. When the cells are losing water, the body tries to stop this loss by producing more cholesterol.

Cystitis, infections of the urinary canal. If toxins in the urine are not sufficiently diluted with water, they destroy the mucous membrane of urinary channel.

Rheumatism. Because dehydration increases the concentration of toxins in the blood and cellular fluid, the more toxins, the stronger the pain.

For more information, click here.

How much water should you drink?

In my last post, I discussed the benefits of alkaline water. In this post, I will discuss how much water you should drink and in the next post I will discuss the signs of dehydration.

We all know that we need water, but how much do we really need? As we get older, our kidneys, which transport water to our tissues, become less efficient. Also, nerves that signal thirst gradually decline as well. So hydration may become an issue.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are two approaches:

1. Replacement approach
2. Eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day

In the replacement approach, you need to replace what you lose from your urine, breathing, sweating, and bowel movements which account for approximately 4 cups of water a day. Food will usually account for 20 percent of your fluid intake. Hence, if you add about 8 cups of water or other beverages a day, you will be replacing your lost fluids. Remember, though, individual circumstances vary.

In the 8 glasses of water a day approach, some people count all liquids, but it is water that is supported by scientific evidence. This approach is easier to remember. If you drink enough fluid so that you rarely feel thirsty and produce 1.5 liters (6.3 cups) or more of colorless or slightly yellow urine a day, your fluid intake is probably adequate. And who’s going to bother measuring their outflow?

Coenzyme Q10 — CoQ10

coenzymeq10_mayoclinicLast week I had an opportunity to meet with my mentor, Richard Dennis, author of Evil Medicine. It is a look at how prescription drugs are destroying our health. One of his topics is Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). It is produced by the human body and is necessary for the basic functioning of cells.

In the book, he states that your body manufactures CoQ10 for brain health, energy production, and protection against free radical damage. Further, he says that CoQ10 is critical in the synthesis of ATP, our “energy molecule,” the chemical fuel used by all cells.

According to the Mayo Clinic, CoQ10 levels are reported to decrease with age and to be low in patients with some chronic diseases such as heart conditions, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS. Some prescription drugs may also lower CoQ10 levels.

The following sampling of drugs may deplete CoQ10:

  • certain anti-depressants
  • anti-psychotic drugs
  • cholesterol-lowering statin drugs
  • beta-blockers
  • anti-diabetic drugs
  • anti-hypertension drugs

Dennis goes on to say that some studies suggest congestive heart failure and cardiomyopathy are CoQ10 deficient diseases. One side effect of these prescription drugs is that they interfere with your body’s production of CoQ10. This depletion can be very serious in the elderly, because aging already depletes CoQ10 and a deficiency may result in Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

Symptoms of CoQ10 deficiency include:

  • angina
  • cardiac arrhythmia
  • mitral valve prolapse
  • high blood pressure
  • stroke
  • gum disease
  • low energy — feels like you’re “running on empty”
  • weak immune system

He says most doctors don’t know that CoQ10 levels decrease as we age and it leads to disease susceptibility. Heart patients, diabetics, and almost everyone approaching retirement age critically need more CoQ10.

Older persons in good health have difficulty in synthesizing CoQ10, so there is a real danger that the cholesterol lowering drugs, while perhaps reducing the bad cholesterol count, could be damaging the heart’s ability to function effectively because of a deficit of CoQ10. He ends with, “How ironic is that?”

Would you like to try CoQ10 from a company that offers a 30-day money back guarantee on their product? Click here.

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Hypotension — Low Blood Pressure

Sphygmomanometer

Sphygmomanometer

I went to my primary care physician for my annual physical. One of the things that’s routinely checked is blood pressure. To my amazement, my blood pressure was lower than I’d ever seen it in the past few years, which had been inching up as I aged. As a senior, most of us are concerned about high blood pressure or hypertension. So I wondered, could low blood pressure or hypotension also be a problem and at what point does it become a problem?

Here is a chart for the low blood pressure range.

Systolic pressure (mm Hg)

Diastolic pressure (mm Hg)

Pressure Range

90

60

Borderline Low blood  Pressure

60

40

Too Low Blood Pressure

50

33

Dangerously Low Blood  Pressure

Fortunately, my blood pressure falls within the normal range and not in the problem range for low blood pressure. According to the Mayo Clinic, “…low blood pressure can cause symptoms of dizziness and fainting or mean that they have serious heart, endocrine or neurological disorders. Severely low blood pressure can deprive the brain and other vital organs of oxygen and nutrients, leading to a life-threatening condition called shock.”

Here is a list of the most common symptoms of hypotension provided by Medical News Today.

  • Blurred vision
  • Cold, clammy, pale skin
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • General feeling of weakness
  • Nausea
  • Palpitations
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Thirst

Mayo Clinic says you are at risk for low blood pressure if you fall in any of these categories:

  • Age. Drops in blood pressure on standing or after eating occur primarily in adults older than 65. Orthostatic hypotension happens after standing up, while postprandial hypotension happens after eating a meal. Neurally mediated hypotension happens as a result of a miscommunication between the brain and heart. It primarily affects children and younger adults.
  • Medications. People who take certain medications, such as high blood pressure medications like alpha blockers, have a greater risk of low blood pressure. This is especially true for adults over age 80.
  • Certain diseases. Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and some heart conditions put you at a greater risk of developing low blood pressure.

So get your blood pressure checked regularly. If you have a monitor at home, be sure to take it with you when you go to the doctor. I know the numbers on my digital blood pressure monitor at home are at least 10 higher than the sphygmomanometer at my doctor’s office. Your pharmacy most likely has a blood pressure monitor as well, although they are known to be inaccurate. Actually, taking blood pressure requires a cuff of the correct size and the placement of your arm should be at the level of your heart. Most of the time, blood pressure is not taken correctly.

As for how I lowered my blood pressure, I believe I have finally found the nutritional supplement geared specifically for the heart that works for me and secondly, I’ve also picked up the pace of my cardio exercises. Take care.

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Risk Factors for Heart Attack and Stroke

CigaretteA  female friend in her 70’s recently had a heart attack. She seemed to be perfectly healthy (although previously had had open heart surgery). It happened suddenly and she’s now recovering. How scary, I thought, and what’s the possibility that I could become a statistic as well. I found a booklet that I’d previously picked up and not paid attention to called, “Are You at Risk of Heart Attack or Stroke” jointly published by the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association. Here is the quiz.

  • Age and Sex. I am a man over 45 years old or I am a woman over 55 years old.
  • Family History. My father or brother had a heart attack before age 55; or my mother or sister had one before age 65; or my mother, father, sister, brother or grandparent had a stroke.
  • Heart Disease Medical History. I have coronary heart disease, atrial fibrillation or another heart condition(s) or I’ve had a heart attack.
  • Stroke Medical History. I’ve been told that I have carotid artery disease; or I’ve had a stroke or TIA (transient isclemic attack); or I have a disease of the leg arteries, a high red blood cell count or sickle cell anemia.
  • Blood Pressure. My blood pressure is 140/90 mm Hg or higher, or a health professional has said my blood pressure is too high, or I don’t know what my blood pressure is.
  • Tobacco smoke. I smoke or live or work with people who smoke regularly.
  • Total cholesterol. My total cholesterol is 240 mg/dL or higher, or I don’t know my level.
  • HDL Cholesterol. My HDL (“good”) cholesterol is less than 40 mg/dL or I don’t know my HDL cholesterol level.
  • Physical Activity. I get less than a total of 30 minutes of physical activity on most days.
  • Overweight. I am 20 pounds or more overweight for my height and build.
  • Diabetes. I have diabetes (a fasting blood sugar of 126 mg/dL or higher), or I need medicine to control my blood sugar.

Heart disease can be a silent killer. Besides controlling what I can, I take a vitamin for circulatory health that is like the arcade game, Pac-Man. It’s Pac-Man eating the plaque in the arteries. For more information, click here. To listen, click here.