According to the Journal of the Association of Physicians of India, one in five patients suffering from hypertension in India have resistant hypertension. The prevalence is greater among women and people above the age of 60 years. Hypertension is a critical non-communicable disease that adds to India's high burden of morbidity and mortality. In the case of resistant hypertension, the blood pressure always remains high despite medications.
However, through complementary and alternative therapies like yoga, acupuncture and diet modifications, it is possible to reduce the dependence on drugs and decrease blood pressure. A study conducted in 2009 exploring the effects of exercise, yoga and dietary salt among 102 participants with high blood pressure revealed that those who engaged in lifestyle modifications experienced a drop in blood pressure compared to the control group.
Yoga and acupuncture
The AHA (America Heart Association) has published a review of various trials indicating that yoga helps lower blood pressure and is unlikely to cause any harm to people suffering from high blood pressure. In another review conducted in 2016, it was concluded that strenuous yoga practices like those involving sun salutations or Surya Namaskar count as strenuous exercises and help to reduce blood pressure.
Yoga asanas usually involve breathing deeply and consciously while synchronizing the body movements. It can help keep blood pressure in check naturally, primarily by relieving stress. Shishuasana (Child Pose), Paschimottanasana (Forward Bend Pose), Virasana (hero pose), Badhakonasana (Butterfly Pose) and Ardha Matsyendrasana (Sitting Half Spinal Twist) which can prove highly beneficial, especially for those suffering from resistant hypertension.
Acupuncture, a part of Chinese traditional medicine, is also effective in reducing blood pressure. Studies suggest that acupuncture not only lowers BP but improves the regulation of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, oxidative stress, vascular endothelium, neuroendocrine system and so on. Clinical studies have also pointed out that inflammation occurs in hypertensive patients. All evidence suggests that acupuncture therapy can reduce inflammatory factors, which may affect the endothelial function and RAAS system, resulting in the reduction of blood pressure. In another study involving 50 patients with hypertension, it was found that after 30 minutes of acupuncture, their systolic blood pressure was reduced from 169 to 151 Hg, and diastolic blood pressure from 77 to 72 Hg.
Other than high blood pressure, resistant hypertension is also associated with organ damage and a 50 per cent greater risk of cardiovascular events like heart attack, stroke and death. Researchers have found out that behavioural changes, like regular exercise, adoption of good dietary habits, reducing salt intake and losing weight, can effectively lower blood pressure, significantly improving cardiovascular health in people suffering from resistant hypertension.
For people with resistant hypertension, it is crucial to stick to a healthy diet plan which includes:
Reducing the consumption of salt and saturated fats
Choosing monounsaturated oils like canola or olive oil
Eating legumes, seeds, or nuts on a daily basis
Consuming whole grains instead of pasta or white flour products
Making fresh fruits and vegetables a part of the diet as they are rich sources of fibre, potassium, magnesium and more
Staying away from fast food and alcohol
People with kidney issues must be mindful of the amount of potassium they consume.
Resistant hypertension patients are at an increased risk of developing stroke and other heart diseases. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle through daily practice of yoga, indulging in acupuncture therapy and keeping a watch on the diet are some of the effective ways through which resistant hypertension can be kept under control.
(Dr G Prakah is Deputy- Chief Medical Officer, Jindal Naturecure Institute)