The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1134: Can You Control Your Blood Pressure Without Drugs?

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New guidelines define many more Americans as having high blood pressure. Medications to treat it may have side effects. Can you lower your blood pressure naturally?
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High blood pressure is an important risk factor for heart attacks and strokes. A recent change in guidelines urges doctors to treat people whose blood pressure would not have been considered particularly high a few years ago. (Here is a link to the guidelines, published in March 2018.) Most of the time, that treatment consists of prescription medications, all of which have some potential side effects. Is there a different way? The European Society of Cardiology and European Society of Hypertension have just published their new guidelines. Unlike the American medical societies, the Europeans declined to lower the threshold for treatment. It remains at 140/90 for most patients.

The Relaxation Response:

One approach that works very well for some people with hypertension is termed the relaxation response. Though it requires regular practice, people who use it can often control their blood pressure without medication. If they need medicine, they may be able to take less. What is the relaxation response, and how can you benefit?

Sitting in a Sauna:

In Finland, many people use a sauna bath as part of their routine. It even fits into their social life. Research reveals that regular sauna use can help lower blood pressure. Would that work for you?

This Week’s Guests:

Dr. Katy Bell is an National Health and Medical Research Council Senior Research Fellow in Public Health in the School of Public Health at The University of Sydney School of Medicine. That is in Sydney, Australia.

Randall Zusman, MD, is the Director of the Division of Hypertension at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Corrigan Minehan Heart Center and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. The telephone number for the Benson-Henry Mind Body Institute that offers relaxation response training is 617-643-6090. His article on changes in gene expression resulting from the relaxation response was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, May 2018. His previous study on the effectiveness of the relaxation response was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in March 2008.

Jari Laukkanen, MD, PhD, is a cardiologist and head of the Department of Medicine at the University of Eastern Finland and Central Finland Health Care District. His research on sauna bathing and high blood pressure was published in the American Journal of Hypertension in November, 2017.

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