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Work, children, family obligations, money worries… we tiptoe through a minefield of emotional stress every day, and our symptoms seem to multiply with every step we take. It is hard to find time to care for our bodies, not to mention our minds and emotional health. With lives like these, it is not surprising that so many people suffer from high blood pressure. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, one in three Americans lives with this silent killer in their homes, in their bodies. Between 60 and 73 million adults in the United States have high blood pressure.
Is there a “magic bullet” to help you manage stress and reduce your risk of this deadly disease?
While all illness is linked to imbalances in our personal energy field that surrounds our body, it is especially easy to track with high blood pressure. Our cardiovascular systems are literally under so much stress and tension that they have to work much harder than they should.
You can take drugs to lower your blood pressure, but the underlying emotional stress will still demand attention. Bandaiding the symptoms does not solve the problem; it only masks it. To truly heal, to ensure that your life is healthy and full, you need to confront the tension and release it. Easier said than done? Read on to learn how. You can do it. Your heart is telling you something: listen.
I’ve worked with thousands of people with cardiovascular issues and I find that the main contributing factor, although one you will not see on a conventional list, is failing to work through our emotional pain. It’s normal to have toxic emotions like anger, fear, jealously, resentment, grief, loneliness, sadness. However, these feelings only lead to ill health when we refuse or neglect to work through them. Blocking the natural flow of our emotions, pushing them “down” further into our bodies rather than letting them flow, can cause an actual physical blockage, first in the energy field that surrounds our body and later in our physical body itself. This is the most common cause of high blood pressure that I see. The fastest way to change that dynamic is to work with someone who deals with the energy medicine, someone who can help you with coping skills for good emotional health. If you’re curious about how energy healing techniques work, come to one of my self help workshops where I work with volunteers from the audience. Learn more about upcoming self-help workshops.
It is quite common to find an imbalance in the fourth or heart chakra when we’re dealing with high blood pressure. With balanced energy, we are able to feel love, compassion, forgiveness, peace, contentment, and self-acceptance. When our heart chakra energy is distorted – from abuse, trauma, or heartbreak – we may feel the emotional pain of hurt and regret, be unsure of ourselves or unwilling to forgive or release the past. We may be critical, judgmental, or love only with conditions. Our bodies feel the pain as well. Our arms, hands, shoulders, rib cage, blood, lungs, and circulatory system are all affected by fourth chakra imbalances. Our hearts can break, both emotionally and physically.
High blood pressure can be the result of our living out of balance, out of sync with how we are meant to be. Nothing is separate or random when it comes to our health: whatever we feel manifests itself in our body. Think of the last time you received a compliment or were happy. How did you feel? Great? Ten feet tall? Balanced? Now think of a time when you were experiencing toxic emotions like anger. How did your body feel? Did you experience a tightness in your shoulders? Did your head ache? Did you feel short of breath or have a pounding heart? We all know that emotions can cause short-term physical reactions; so what happens when emotions are allowed to build up? They have to come out somehow.
One of the reasons for high blood pressure is frequently pent-up emotion – unresolved hurt, trauma, pain, emotional stress, heartbreak and emotional wounds. All this can cause our heart to work much harder than it should have to. “Heartbreak” is more than just a metaphor. Our hearts can spiritually and physically “break” unless we learn to process our toxic emotions and let go.
Our emotions can also indirectly cause us to experience high blood pressure. The choices we make in life are not random; many times, people treat their bodies in a way that mirrors how they treat their spirits. We may mask emotional pain by using food, drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes. This weakens us. Our bodies respond with a corresponding drop in vital energy and emotional health, which can lead to physical illness. High blood pressure is telling us that both our body and our spirit needs attention. Weight, lack of exercise, poor diet, stress – all of these risk factors signal a spiritual need within us. I have written a book, Truth Heals, about how to identify and process our emotions.
The reason for high blood pressure can be our body’s way of telling us that our cardiovascular system is in trouble, both physically and in our spiritual energy. Conventional medicine seeks to treat the symptoms, exactly as Dr. Julius said, but it does not attempt to fix the core of the problem. What we need to do is recognize that our hearts are broken. Then we can find a way into spiritual energy healing.
When I was diagnosed with cancer at age 25, I went through the normal stages of denial and anger. Then I realized that this was not doing me any good; blaming people was not going to make me well, cursing God was not going to make my illness go away, and being miserable would not add to my quality or quantity of life. So what to do? Look inside. Take a look at the emotional wounds and pain within. I had some very uncomfortable issues to explore, but when I confronted them instead of running away, I was able to regain my physical and emotional health. My spirit felt free for the first time that I could remember, and slowly, my body followed. The inner work I had done with regard to my mental and emotional health allowed my body to respond to holistic healing. It is a symbiotic relationship; you cannot heal the body without healing the mind. You can read parts of my personal story in Truth Heals: What You Hide Can Hurt You, as well as finding out how finding your personal truth can heal what ails you. You can also get more information by reading my newsletter.
The heart beats about three billion times in an average lifespan. It pumps blood into the lungs, where it is oxygenated, and then back into the heart. From there, the oxygenated blood is circulated throughout the rest of the body and over sixty trillion cells receive this necessary elixir of life. Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the artery walls. The circulatory system is so large that if the blood vessels were laid out end to end, they would be long enough to encircle the earth twice. It all works because of the heart, an organ about the size of your fist.
Whenever we visit the doctor, a medical clinic, or the hospital, we have our blood pressure read: this demonstrates the importance of knowing these numbers and keeping them at a normal level. As you know, a blood pressure reading involves two numbers. We’re happy to hear 120/80 and alarmed to hear 160/90, but what do these numbers mean? The first, or top, number is the systolic pressure, and it measures the pressure when your heart is working at its hardest to pump blood. The second, or bottom, number is diastolic pressure, and it measures your resting heart in between beats. As with your pulse, a lower number indicates that your heart is working more efficiently. A high number tells you that your heart has to work hard and may be under strain. If blood pressure is elevated – and stays elevated for a prolonged period of time – it can result in serious damage, which is the situation millions of Americans find themselves in.
Prolonged high blood pressure is really the key, as our blood pressure fluctuates according to our activity level, stress, and other factors. I remember going to the doctor shortly after receiving the news that I had cancer. My heart was racing; I was nervous about undergoing treatment and unsure of what was going to happen. My blood pressure was astronomical. Great, I thought, one more problem to cope with. After I met with my doctor, who took the time to discuss my treatment plan and prognosis, a nurse took my blood pressure again. It was significantly lower; in fact, it was perfect. Stress raises blood pressure, but it should return to normal levels after the tension is relieved.
A normal blood pressure is one in which the systolic pressure is less than 120, and the diastolic pressure is less than 80. If you have a systolic pressure of between 120 and 139 or a diastolic pressure of between 80 and 89, you have what is known as prehypertension. You are bordering on hypertension, or high blood pressure, and need to take steps to lower it. Systolic pressure of 140 to 159 or diastolic pressure of 90-99 is considered stage one hypertension, and systolic pressure of 160 or more or diastolic pressure of 100 or more is stage two hypertension. This is severe and needs immediate treatment: the risk for serious harm is severely elevated.
Let’s take a look at the work the heart is responsible for in the body. The scope of its duties is so vast that it can really help us see why the effects of high blood pressure on the heart are so very dangerous.
When you build a house, you have to make sure your foundation is secure and strong. If it is not, then it can crack or bow. The floors can weaken, walls can buckle, the roof can become insecure. A weak foundation makes your house susceptible to damage from storms and earthquakes, which can damage everything inside. Your heart is your foundation. If it is weak, the rest of your body suffers. And eventually, your body, like your house, will start falling in on itself.
On of the effects of high blood pressure on your body is that it puts your heart at risk: your heart is working beyond its capabilities in order to supply blood to the body. This can cause damage to the eyes, kidneys, arteries, brain, and obviously the heart itself. Untreated hypertension can cause:
If these facts scare you, consider this: one-third of people with high blood pressure do not even know they have it. Millions of people are walking around unaware that they have this time bomb inside. High blood pressure is referred to as the “silent killer” for just this reason. It is impossible to know that you have high blood pressure unless it is checked by a health professional: there are no symptoms, excepting headaches in very few cases. It is possible to have high blood pressure for years without knowing it. Meanwhile, however, it may be causing serious damage to your body. We usually associate high blood pressure with stressed, overemotional people with veins sticking out on their foreheads. And while it is true that stress can affect blood pressure, even calm, even-tempered people have hypertension. This is why it is so essential that everyone get regular check-ups, which invariably include blood pressure measurements.
The answer to this question is beautiful in its simplicity: yes. If you are a living, breathing person, you are indeed at risk for high blood pressure. But there are certain factors that exacerbate the risk. The risk factors for high blood pressure are:
“The commonest form of malnutrition is the western world is obesity.” – Dr. Mervyn Deitel, founder of scientific journal, Obesity Surgery
Weight is such a complex issue. But shouldn’t it be simple? If you want to lose weight, you eat a bit less and exercise a bit more. Easy – everyone should be dropping pounds. This is not the case though, as we see from the millions of Americans who are overweight or obese. It is estimated that nearly two out of every three Americans – 64 percent – are overweight or obese. The Department of Health and Human Services found that deaths directly attributable to poor diet and lack of physical activity increased 33 percent in the past decade. HHS Secretary Tommie Thompson said, “Americans need to understand that overweight and obesity are literally killing us.”
Being overweight is also the single largest risk factor in developing high blood pressure: those who are heavier than their ideal weight are up to six times more likely to have high blood pressure. Why? Our hearts have an enormous job: ideally, some of the burden is relieved by lean muscle. When our bodies are in motion, it helps our hearts move blood throughout the body. From there, the vessels are able to provide oxygen, water, and chemicals from the blood to the muscle tissues. Waste is then carried away by the blood. The body is an amazingly intricate and efficient machine when in optimal shape – which is the problem for many people. They simply are not in optimal shape, or even good shape.
Fat cells accumulate and restrict the movement of blood through the vessels, raising blood pressure. The heart has to work much harder to deliver blood to the body, which weakens it over the long-term. Also affected are the arteries. They can become scarred and hardened. When this happens, they are less able to supply blood to the body, robbing tissue and organs of precious nutrients. They may also build up dangerous plaque, which is an accumulation of fat deposits, calcium, cholesterol, fibrin, and cellular waste. If the plaque ruptures, it can form a blood clot. This shuts off the flow of blood to an area of the body, which can result in strokes or heart attacks.
In short: the more lean muscle you have, the better your heart works. It doesn’t have to strain. The more fat you have, the harder your heart has to work. Hard work causes your blood pressure to rise.
Age is a factor in high blood pressure – half of Americans age 55 – 64 have high blood pressure. Age, combined with excess weight, is a perfect equation for hypertension. Of those older Americans, two in five are obese.
Current Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt says:
Controlling high blood pressure and obesity is crucial for health, and particularly for baby boomers as they grow older. It’s time to act against both conditions so more Americans can live longer, healthier lives.
The good news? While you cannot do anything about your age, you can take steps to improve your health. Director of the CDC, Dr. Julie Gerberding says:
The late fifties and early sixties are a crucial time of life to focus on disease prevention. It’s never too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle to enjoy a longer healthier life.
When we’re young, we often think that life will never catch up to us. If we weigh a few pounds more than we should, we think, “I can always lose it. I have plenty of time.” But, as research from the University of New Hampshire suggests, high blood pressure has indeed caught up to the young.
Researchers at UNH studied a group of 800 undergraduate students in a general nutrition class, each of whom completed a questionnaire on their lifestyles, diets, physical activity, alcohol consumption, and use of cigarettes. The research team recorded each student’s BMI (body mass index), height, weight, waist measurement, blood pressure, glucose levels, and cholesterol. The findings were astounding – remember that the participants were age 18 to 24.
No one was more surprised than the students. UNH senior Heather Carmichael said:
It was a real wake-up call. I was a vegan and I thought my diet was superb, but no. I wasn’t getting enough calcium and I had one risk factor for metabolic syndrome. I was shocked.
Study leader Professor Ingrid Lofgren said, “They’re not as healthy as they think they are.” Joanne Burke, one of Lofgren’s co-teachers, added:
These individuals, if they continue on this trajectory, are going to be much more of a health burden at age fifty than their parents are.
What is even more disturbing is the increasing prevalence of high blood pressure among children. According to a study published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation, the number of children with early and full-blown hypertension has increased steadily since the 1980’s. The culprit? Obesity.
Rebecca Din-Dzietham of the Morehouse School of Medicine, who led the study, said:
This is a major health problem. Unless this upward trend in high blood pressure is reversed, we could be facing an explosion of new cardiovascular disease cases in young adults.
The study found that the number of obese children rose from six percent in 1963 to 17 percent in 2002. The number of children with pre-hypertension increased from just under eight percent in 1988 to ten percent in 2002. In 1988, 2.7 percent of children had high blood pressure: that rose to 3.7 percent in 2002. That may not sound like a large increase, but it accounts for 410,150 more children who have a serious – and adult – condition.
Director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Elizabeth G. Nabel says of the increase:
This is very worrisome. Typically in the past we didn’t begin to see high blood pressure until someone was in their 30s or 40s. This is another piece of evidence suggesting that the obesity epidemic will likely turn into a heart disease epidemic… If you were going to make a list of the factors that are driving this, obesity would be numbers one through 10.
These children and young adults are going to enter adulthood carrying conditions that their parents and grandparents may have. Their bodies are much older than they should be.
When you gain a few pounds, you may view it as an annoyance – or a challenge! But you will likely not notice an increase in your blood pressure right away. It takes about ten years after becoming overweight to develop high blood pressure. We also know that once you have high blood pressure, it is harder to lose weight and that being overweight makes it harder to treat high blood pressure. What does this tell us? The time to do something about your high blood pressure is now. Waiting only makes it more difficult to control. If you have noticed that the numbers on the scale are creeping up a bit, it’s time to nip it in the bud, even if your blood pressure measurements are normal. If you do have high blood pressure, then it is definitely time to take action. Despite it being harder to lose weight, you can do it. It takes effort, as everything worth doing does. Please read my article about weight here.
It only takes a few pounds to greatly affect your body’s health: if you lose as little as ten pounds, it has such a big impact. For some people, a little weight loss may be all that’s needed to control blood pressure. Imagine, no more pills. For others with more severe hypertension, weight loss will increase the efficacy of blood pressure medication. Ten pounds – you can manage that. And the great thing about exercise and weight loss is that once you start doing it, you are able to do more. At first, taking a walk around the block may be a challenge. As you lose weight, though, you can do a mile, then two, then three. John C. Maxwell, author, speaker, and leadership expert says of exercise:
The whole idea of motivation is a trap. Forget motivation. Just do it. Exercise, lose weight, test your blood sugar, or whatever. Do it without motivation. And then, guess what? After you start doing the thing, that’s when the motivation comes and makes it easy for you to keep on doing it.
Marsha Doble puts it this way: “I have to exercise in the morning before my brain figures out what I’m doing.” Don’t give yourself time to think about it: just do it! If you think about exercising, your brain will come up with excuse after excuse. If you start making your body do it, your mind will follow. Yet another example of the mind body connection.
For every two pounds you lose, researchers say that you lower your systolic pressure by 2.5 mm Hg and your diastolic pressure by 1.5 mm Hg. So, if your blood pressure was 150/90, and you lost two pounds, you should lower your numbers to 147.5/88.5. This is certainly a step in the right direction. If you lose ten pounds, you’ve lowered your blood pressure to 137.5/82.5. You’ve gone from having hypertension requiring treatment to being in the high normal range. A few more pounds, and you’re well on you way to much better physical health and emotional healing.
“One way to get high blood pressure is to go mountain climbing over molehills.” — Earl Wilson
Another huge factor in high blood pressure is something each and every once of us deals with on a regular basis: emotional stress. We worry about money, about our jobs, our children, our homes. We stress out about traffic, meetings, deadlines. While there may be very little we can do to remove some of these stressors, we need to make an attempt to change our reaction to them. If stress is your issue, click here for an in-depth look at stress and how to alleviate it.
Sometimes it seems like you can actually feel your blood pressure rising! Have you ever sat in deadlocked traffic, late for a meeting, on the cell phone with your spouse who is bickering with you? You can just see the numbers rising and are surprised steam isn’t pouring out of your ears like a cartoon character. This – hopefully – is short-term stress, and as I mentioned earlier, it can raise your blood pressure temporarily. What we need to worry about is chronic stress symptoms. It’s the relationship between stress and health that’s so important.
Here’s a quick rundown of how our bodies respond to emotional stress. To use the above example, you are sitting in the car, gridlocked in traffic and late for an important appointment. Your mind is telling your body that this is an emergency or a crisis. And it is in a sense. Hundreds of years ago, an emergency or a crisis was an attack by a rival tribe or an animal stampede. The types of crises we experience have changed but our bodies’ response to them has not. As you are sitting in your car, your body is responding the same way it would if you were staring down a lion. You get a rush of adrenalin and cortisol, which helps prepare your body for “fight or flight.”
But you’re stuck in traffic in the car; there’s nowhere to go! Our ancestors could relieve the stress by physically resolving the situation, but since there is no real physical resolution to the traffic jam, your body has a hard time releasing the stress hormones. Also, ongoing emotional stress symptoms cause our body to store cortisol – in case we need it for another attack or famine. All of this causes shifts in our metabolism, blood sugar levels, cravings, and fat storage. Again, our ancestors needed to retain fat and slow down metabolism in order to deal with an emergency, such as no food. Most Americans, however, have ready access to food – and plenty of access to fast food – and we do not need to store fat. Try telling this to our bodies, though.
Stress symptoms cause our vessels to constrict, which is why acute stress raises blood pressure. Over time, emotional stress contributes to fat storage and excess weight, which we have seen is a very strong predictor of hypertension. The jury is still out, medically speaking, on whether there is a link between stress and long-term high blood pressure. Researchers are not sure whether stress itself is a cause of hypertension or if it precipitates it because people smoke, drink in excess, overeat, sleep poorly, and exercise infrequently when they are under chronic stress.
To answer this question for ourselves, let’s recall what we know about the fourth chakra. When our heart energy is out of balance, our body responds with physical symptoms. And it seems that research is starting to back this up. A study in the Annals of Family Medicine found that angry men have higher blood pressure and more risk of heart disease. Even though the research did not discover why or how anger and stress symptoms increased blood pressure, they postulated that those with angry, chronically stressed personalities were less likely to heed medical advice and that they had higher levels of catecholamine, or hormones released by the adrenal glands during periods of stress. These higher levels of hormones, including adrenalin, may cause blood pressure to rise.
A study conducted in the seventies followed a group of air traffic controllers – a very stressful job to say the least – to determine the effects of a heavy workload and emotional stress on blood pressure. At the outset, not one had high blood pressure. Dr. Robert M. Rose of the University of Texas followed up on this study twenty years later and found that 17 percent had developed the condition. Those whose systolic pressure rose in response to stress were more likely to develop high blood pressure (remember, systolic is the reading of the heart’s beating, or active state).
The question of whether or not emotional stress causes high blood pressure is important, of course, but what is just as important is whether stress can exacerbate already elevated blood pressure. Again, the answer is unclear. Many experts say that stress does not cause hypertension, nor does it make it worse. But what is going on in our minds always has an impact on our bodies. David Cook, American Idol winner, is a perfect example of this. He was rushed to the hospital with heart palpitations and very high blood pressure after a show. Earlier that day, he had been told that his blood pressure was much too high but he continued with his performance. He had even collapsed before a previous show.
David is a young, otherwise healthy person, not a high risk for hypertension, and yet he had it. To make it worse, he was under tremendous strain and emotional stress. Not only is being a contestant on the wildly popular American Idol demanding, but he was also worried about his brother. Adam Cook had battled brain cancer for ten years and was undergoing chemotherapy. The cancer had spread to his spine. This is undeniably stressful for David, especially as he was across the country, unable to help or see his brother. His heartbreak at his brother’s illness distorted his fourth chakra energy, resulting in high blood pressure. Hypertension – if anyone was beyond tension, it was David Cook.
Can reducing stress symptoms help us reduce high blood pressure? Consider this: you start meditating to relieve stress. You feel better and have more energy. With this newfound oomph, you start taking walks. Feeling even better, you pursue other interests. You stop eating when you’re bored. All of this can help lower your blood pressure. So, in this way, relieving stress indirectly lowers blood pressure.
As for a “cure”? Dr. Stevo Julius, physician and researcher from the University of Michigan, says:
We cannot cure it because we do not know the cause. But luckily it is one of the few diseases that can be controlled simply by treating the symptoms. If you have a brain tumor, aspirin is great for the headache but will not stop the growth from getting larger. But when you treat hypertension by taking steps to lower your blood pressure, the prognosis becomes almost normal.
We can treat the symptoms and we can reduce blood pressure indirectly by relieving stress, but what about healing? Conventional medicine views high blood pressure as incurable because they do not know what causes it. The concepts inherent in energy healing, however, make it clear what causes hypertension and how we can heal our bodies with the mind body connection. It comes from healing our emotions. High blood pressure tells us something is wrong with our hearts. There is something amiss in our energy field. We all have blocked emotions; we may have buried it deep inside for years, but our bodies know. The body’s pain is the mind’s pain. It is a mirror, and if we look in it, we will start to know how to heal. Check out my article on emotional healing to learn coping skills for good emotional health.
“Three rules of work: out of clutter find simplicity; from discord find harmony; in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” — Albert Einstein
Imagine that you notice a foul odor in your house. There are two ways to approach the problem. One: you burn some incense in the bedroom, bake an apple pie in the kitchen, spray some air freshener in the bathroom, and maybe sprinkle some carpet deodorizer in the living room. You manage to cover up the odor. But when the masking smells dissipate, you are left with the same stench as before. Two: you identify the cause of the odor and deal with it. You find a bag of trash that didn’t get taken out with the rest. Great, you know the problem and you can fix it.
It’s a silly analogy, but it works! It’s the same way with the body. You may have pain and heartache that you try to ignore. You cover it with food, you drown it with alcohol, you run away from it by becoming a workaholic, you numb your brain and your pain by sitting on the couch and watching TV. Whatever your “drug” of choice, you are only masking a deeper problem. Once the sugar rush wears off, once you sober up, you are left with the same hurt. The way to resolve this and heal – to eliminate the odor, if you will – is to get at the root.
But please, please, please keep taking your high blood pressure medication. I am a firm believer that conventional medicine can co-exist peacefully with complementary methods. Let the medication do its work while you do yours. Remember, just as losing weight can eliminate the need for medication or increase its efficacy, addressing the reason for your hypertension will allow your body to be more receptive to treatment. According to the American Heart Association, of the 73 million Americans with high blood pressure, 64.9 percent do not have it controlled. This is a staggering number. You can bring it under control, but you need to consider the mind body connection.
There are many avenues to explore when it comes to healing your mind and body. The key is to find something that works for you. If you feel that the conventional Western approach is right for you, you can seek the advice of a counselor or therapist. Therapy can be enormously beneficial as you work through the issues that are causing your mind and body to experience pain. If you are seeking anholistic treatment for high blood pressure as an alternative to traditional therapy, you can go to an energy healer or aura healer. You could come to one of my self help workshops, where we can determine where your energy is blocked and help you get on the path to emotional wellness.
There are also many other complementary,holistic treatments for high blood pressure you can do on your own to facilitate better physical and spiritual health:
I know some of you out there will treat the above suggestions as a to-do list: you’ll check off each item and then expect your blood pressure to improve. It doesn’t work like that, unfortunately. There’s no simple holistic treatment for high blood pressure. It takes a lot of work to get to the root of your emotional pain and to release heartache that you’ve held inside for so long. Start with something simple and manageable, say taking a walk each day, and you’ll be started on your journey.
There is hope in all situations. If you have high blood pressure, take the challenge and get yourself healthy. This can be the opportunity your mind and body needed to get the attention and respect they deserve. Seize the opportunity to make real, lasting changes. Your heart will thank you.