Some Things We Can Do To Reduce Our Blood Pressure Without Medication.

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High blood pressure is often referred to as a silent killer because high blood pressure doesn’t always give you symptoms and so you may not know that you have high blood pressure. Having high blood pressure for long period with cause damage to the blood vessels, resulting in strokes, kidney failure and even myocardial infarction. High blood pressure is very common and probably under diagnosed. However, once diagnosed as having a high blood pressure it is relatively easy to treat and prevent future complications. The trick is to have your blood pressure checked periodically, especially if there is a family history of high blood pressure and if it is high to see your doctor for advise. The public health agency of Canada reports hypertension statistics as follows:-

  • In 2006/07, 450,029 adults were newly diagnosed with hypertension (22.1 per 1,000 population aged 20 years and older, 21.6 per 1,000 women and 22.7 per 1,000 men).

Here are some suggestions based on some evidence that they may be helpful, but the proof of the pudding is when your blood pressure readings become normal  after following these suggestions.

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1. Decrease your weight, even by losing as little as 10 lbs will be helpful.

2. Daily aerobic exercise 30-40 min per day, combined with strength training three times a week.

3. Reduce or stop alcohol intake.

4. Reduce salt intake. We only need 500mg per day but our diets can have as high as 5000mg per day if it is mostly from canned or packaged or processed foods. Most restaurant food is also with high salt content.

5. Reduce oils with high ratio of omega -6 to omega -3, which include corn oil, safflower oil, and sunflower oil; replace it with extra virgin olive oil or macadamia oil.

6. Increase garlic intake, four cloves every day. Can get the same benefit with 900 mg of aged garlic extract.

7.High quality seaweed 3 gm per day.

8.Lycopene in fresh tomatoes or lycopene supplement may also help.

9. Magnesium 500 mg per day , but people with kidney disease should consult their doctor first. Consuming generous portion of green leafy vegetables will give you the same benefit.

10. Vitamin D supplement helps lower blood pressure as well as many other benefits.

11. Four grams of Omega-3 per day also helps to lower the blood pressure.

12. CoQ10 deficiency can cause high blood pressure. Taking 200-400 mg per day can lower the blood pressure.

13. Stress management will also reduce blood pressure.

If you have high blood pressure try to adopt as many of these measures as possible and see if the blood pressure come down. ALWAYS work with you doctor so there are no conflict with medication, proper target of blood is achieved and the supplements are not doing any other harms.

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Resources

The Science of Natural Healing – by Dr Mimi Guarneri

Eating the Right Foods – part 2.

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Why inflammation matters.

There are some foods that cause inflammation and some food stop the inflammation. Why should inflammation matter? It matters because medical science is starting to understand inflammation maybe the starting point for all diseases. Take heart attacks for example, we are beginning to understand that lowering high cholesterol is only part of the prevention. First the inflammation starts in the walls of coronary arteries, that triggers the cholesterol to be deposited on the walls of the arteries that are inflamed, these deposits build up until eventually the flow of  the blood completely stops and thus causing a heart attack. It is thought Cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and Heart Disease are all linked to the inflammation. There are many other diseases in which inflammation is present but it is not clear where in the process of disease formation the inflammation happens, at the beginning or end of the disease process. These diseases, to mention some, are Rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, ankylosing spondylitis, SLE,  dermatomyositis, sacroiliitis etc. It doesn’t matter where in the process the inflammation happens, if it is causing harm it makes sense to turn it off.

The causes of inflammation.

There are number factors that cause bad inflammation, these include some foods I have listed below, stress, polluted air, chemical irritants, second hand smoke, pesticides, chronic infections such as Helicobacter pylori, fat around the midline of your body, chronic sleep disturbance and sleep apnea. To turn the inflammation off, correct as many of the above as possible.

Inflammation causing foods.

Avoid or eliminate the following :-

Sugar in the form of corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, golden syrup, maltose, and sucrose.

Oils that is very high in omega-6, such as grape seed oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil.

Trans fats, they are found deep fried foods, commercially prepared baked goods, fast foods and they usually appear on the label as partially hydrogenated oils.

Cow’s milk can also lead to inflammation.

Cured meats and red meats contain substance called neu5Gc which causes inflammation.

Excessive alcohol consumption.

Consumption of refined grains, such as white bread and white rice.

Artificial food additives such as monosodium glutamate and aspartame.

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Preventing inflammation with food and Herbs.

Use these foods as much as possible:-

Eat  whole foods and avoid anything processed.

Eat fish high in Omega-3

Eat Kelp ( seaweed)

Eat whole fruits and vegetable.

Use olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil; these all have better ratio of omega-3 : omega-6

Avoid drinking from plastic bottles.

Drink black and green tea

Eat broccoli, shitake mushrooms

Have Tulsi or Holy Basil

Use Tumeric, Ginger, Basil and rosemary in your cooking.

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Resources:

The Science of Natural Healing – by Dr Mimi Guarneri

Eating The Right Foods- Part 1.

Hypocrites said,  “Food is Medicine.”

In ayurvedic medicine there is proverb that says, “ With the right food medicine is of no use and with the wrong food medicine is of no use.”

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There is still truth in this ancient wisdom and science is confirming the same.

Studies comparing Rural Chinese diet with USA diet shows what we eat matters if we want to avoid ill health. In the USA it was noted that the fat intake was twice as much, fiber intake was three times lower and animal protein (beef, pork, lamb) was ninety percent higher when compared with the Rural Chinese diet. In the USA the heart diseases was 16 times higher in men, five times higher in women and higher Diabetes, Osteoporosis, Cancer and Hypertension when compared with Rural Chinese. These differences in the diseases were attributed to the difference in the food people eat in the two countries.

Scientists are now also discovering how these foods affect and change our physiology when we eat them. High fat meal for example can impair the blood flow to the heart muscle for up to six hours, in addition to the long term narrowing of the blood vessels. Its is not uncommon that if someone has a poor blood supply to the heart muscle they will get heart pain or a heart attack after a high fat meal; because the fat doesn’t allow the blood vessels to dilate up to six hours.

Red meat and cured meats are linked to colon cancer according to one study completed in 2010. Other evidence comparing indigenous Africans with USA Africans shows that African living in Africa who eat very high fiber diet have 1 in 100 000, where as USA Africans the cancer rate is much higher, 1 in 2000. This is linked to having higher red and cured meats; and low fiber in the USA diet.

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Another study in 2010 showed women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer and were on high red and cured meat diet had poor clinical outcome compared with those who were on low red meat diet.

There is also some evidence linking obesity to having more cancer. The obesity is related to eating too many simple carbohydrates and sugars in the North American diet.

The good news is that there are foods that keep us healthy. Study done on people who already had coronary artery heart disease and who were put on Mediterranean diet for five years showed seventy percent reductions in cardiovascular events, eighty percent reduced spread of cancers and people developing cancer later in life was also reduced. The Mediterranean diet consists of more beans, veggies and lentils. To use canola oil or olive oil, eliminate saturated fats from beef, pork, and lamb and also eliminate butter and cream.

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Other research confirms the above findings and healthy eating is never too late to start. Another study shows benefits in older people, from age seventy to ninety year olds who were told to follow Mediterranean diet and walk one to one and half miles a day; there was fifty percent reduction in cardiac events and mortality.

Science is discovering what is in the Mediterranean diet that makes it so good for us to eat. It has to do with the right fats, right carbohydrates and the right micronutrients. We will look at these in more details in the future post.

Resources:

In Defence of Food – by Michael Pollan

The Science of Natural Healing – by Dr Mimi Guarneri

Healing Suffering With Self-Compassion

 

In the past blog posts I talked about how evolution has hard-wired us to protect ourselves so we can survive to see another day. One of the mechanisms for survival I mentioned was the fight-flight-freeze response when we saw a tiger. In this day and age we know we are not going to be eaten up by a tigers or be harmed by anyone under ordinary circumstances when we step out of our houses; we have developed very sophisticated rules to be able to live in our crowded society without coming to harm.  You may have noticed that living in our society does not however eliminate the problem of stress we feel almost everyday; this stress is not unlike the stress we felt when we saw a tiger, although now it is in the form of emotional and internal stress. Strangely, we are still using our thousands of years old way of coping with this stress: the fight becomes self-criticism and we turn on ourselves, the flight becomes the self isolation and we avoid relationships, and the freeze becomes self-absorption and we get struck in our own thoughts.

In the last 10-20 years there has been lot of attention given to coping effectively with stress. It is becoming apparent that what ever that’s causing the stress or suffering becomes amplified if we try to resist or ignore it. With resisting we may turn sleeplessness into chronic insomnia, anxiety into panic attacks, temporary grief into chronic depression, back pain into chronic pain syndrome. We may feel this resistance in the body as a muscle tension, in the mind as rumination and in our behavior as avoidance. There is lot a of information about “techniques” that will allow you to feel better within minutes but unfortunately these are not lasting solutions. If we want real change we have to feel and accept our suffering.

Mindfulness and acceptance are opposite of resistance; it changes the process by which the resistance amplify the psychological suffering. When we turn our attention to the source of our suffering it may at first amplify the suffering so it is really important to use our intuition to distinguish between safety and discomfort. Feeling vulnerable and uncomfortable doesn’t mean unsafe; hurt doesn’t necessarily mean harm but we must know the difference. Generally speaking it is best to take the middle path between facing and avoiding.

When our suffering is profound than mindfulness by itself may not be enough. When we are anxious and we try to be mindful our anxiety may become worse. In this kind of situation loving kindness and compassion towards oneself will diminish any intractable discomfort. Self-compassion is bearing witness to ones own suffering and responding with kindness and understanding. It means taking care of ourselves just as we treat someone we dearly love. We have to also remind ourselves that we are not the only person suffering in the world, it is common to all humanity; and we needs to have open-balanced awareness and not get absorbed in our troubles, rather we need to approach our feeling with sense of curiosity.  Self-compassion is a way of responding to what’s happening within us and who we are in a healthy way. We don’t want to assume that there is something wrong with us that should be fixed. We don’t want to throw ourselves away and become something better; rather it is about befriending who we really are. This is the essence of self-compassion.

We give ourselves kindness and understanding NOT TO FEEL BETTER, but BECAUSE we feel pain. We have to contact the sorrow before we can become compassionate.

Resources:

The art and science of self-compassion by Christopher Germer

http://flickrhivemind.net

 

The Question: Who Am I ?

Most of us have asked the question who am I ? or  at the very least have asked some form of this question. The question usually occurs to us when we are in a pensive mood or maybe even a depressed mood. Sometimes we take time out to discover the ‘real self’ or ‘the real me.’ I am sorry to say there is no real self or real me, either physically or mentally. It is an illusionary concept at best. We don’t even have a single atom left in our bodies that we were born with, we are constantly changing and replenishing. Our sense of  ‘being’ comes from the patterns created in our physical brain. If for some reason part of the brain gets damaged then our sense of self will become very different.

In the previous posts I hinted that our brain and mind is the product of our evolution. We are not in full control of our mind. It is governed partly by the ancient strategies that have survival value and have been evolving since the beginning of time (or life); as well it is governed by our archetypes, desires, motives, fears , abilities and talents. Our mind has matured into a ‘complex entity’ , with rainbow of possibilities. It knows ‘we exist’, it can explore the nature of the universe, it is capable of great clarity , compassion, charity , love and kindness; but it has a dark side too, it is also capable of rage , violence and torture.

We are patterns of great complexity, a rainbow of many colours and the point of introspection is not so much as to find a particular colour but to find a way to blend all the colours and  stretch across the horizon like a beautiful rainbow. A family is not just children, mum , dad, uncles, aunts and grandparents but all of them delicately connected and integrated together. Similarly we can think of ourself not as a single self  but as a consciousness that is textured by a multi-faceted , multicoloured set of possibilities. The trick is to connect and integrate different ‘parts’ of ourself so we can love, be loved, be compassionate, be patient, without fear, be at peace and live with ease.

Next I will post some thoughts on Jungian archetypes and social mentalities; until then have a mindful life.

Resources

The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=rainbow+photograph&qpvt=rainbow+photograph&FORM=Z7FD#x0y0

http://flickrhivemind.net/

We Are Not To Blame For What Goes On In Our Mind.

You may have noticed that what goes on in your mind you may not have much control over. In many ways much of whats goes on in our mind is not our fault or even our intention. It is amazing that nearly 3000 years ago Buddha had this insight about the mind and come to the same fundamental conclusion; that because we have no control over whats in our minds then it implies that it’s not our fault or our intention to have those thought in our mind.

It is now well accepted that two major factors that influences us are our genes and our early environment; and we have no control over neither of them. We are hard-wired, so to speak, by our genes and our early childhood experiences but had no say in the process. We were not consulted, no one asked our permission. But it is the interaction of the genes and the early childhood experiences that gives us our sense of “being oneself “; this experience of oneself may vary from feeling amazing to feeling severely traumatized, and we had no say in the matter.

Even though we had no say in the design of  ourselves and we have little control over our mind we can still take responsibility in a new way so that we can live in and work with such a mind. It is like taking responsibility for our physical body; we had no choice over what body we were given but we still have the responsibility of looking after it to keep it healthy. We have to eat right, exercise etc. The same is true for our mind, we are learning that our brain and mind need certain kind of input to function well.

We will explore what kind of input is required for our brain and mind to function well. But until than it is important to realize that we are not to blame  about whats going on in our minds. We can be kind and compassionate to ourselves.

Resources

The Compassionate Mind. by  Paul Gilbert

Sense of Self (Me) and We.

If one decide to become part of “we” it doesn’t mean they should lose sense of “me” ; if “me” does gets lost there is a serious problem knowing and developing the sense of self.

In relationships we share patterns of energy with one another which pass through our neural circuits, these patterns of energy carry meaning and information. If this energy and information is not transmitted properly there are serious consequences for knowing the self and being part of the we.

For example, if  the past experience of relationship connections were unreliable, it will prevent us from knowing ourselves and will cause difficulty relating to others as “we.” So as not to risk being hurt again by similar experiences to the past ones, we will shut parts of ourselves off . This may result in us living life of isolation and creating sense of independence which will allow us to survive but it will limit our sense of vitality that we are able to feel as part of we. We may also find that our sense of self to be in an overwhelming upheaval if our experience of past connections with those we depended for comfort  were inconsistent, un-welcomed and intrusive. In this situation we may find ourselves with disabling doubt , anxiety and fear when ever we allow ourselves to become dependent on our loved one for support, caring  and well-being. We may continue to look for a perfect partner but never finding one. We may become highly reactive to ambiguous communication that may fill our daily lives with dread and uncertainty. These experiences prevent us from growing and knowing ourself as a person; they keeps us from being “me.” They also constrain our present experiences and limits us from constructing more helpful future. We have to grow beyond these past memory patterns and move towards integrated state of thriving as both a strong “me” and a vitalizing “we.”

Daniel J. Siegel in his book Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology mentions studies of empathy and reports…

…” individuals who are shown a photograph of a gruesome accident can be overwhelmed in their response and shut down their capacity to help if they ask the question: What if that were me? How would I feel? Instead , if they ask the question, ” How does that person feel?” they are more likely to have the internal resources to extend themselves and help other. The gist of these finding is that if we fuse together you and me, “I” will become lost and overwhelmed. We will become confused, fused – with. Joining is not the same as fusion.”

Various mindful awareness practices are direct way to increase the capacity to become a part of a we without becoming lost as me. ( in the future posts I will say more about these practices.)

Resources

Daniel J. Siegel :  Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology

Maintenance of Physical Health and Living Disease Free.

We are still building a foundation before we get to the topic of  real happiness and health, so today I am going to focus on physical health. It is hard to separate physical health from the emotional health because one effects the other , but I will mainly talk about what we can do to keep ourselves free of disease.  I will emphasize the  general principles and give examples of specifics so you can adopt the principles to your own lifestyle. As the old saying goes “ounce of prevention is worth a pound”, this is true for staying free of disease too.

 

Annual Medical: We are often rushing around just to keep up with doing the essential tasks in our daily lives,  it is important that one of these essential tasks be to have a yearly medical. The annual medical may pick up chronic conditions that are just starting, conditions that may give you no symptoms or  symptoms you may have just got used to, such as mild tendency to be tired or to have mildly low mood ; these symptoms can be caused by low thyroid hormone , diabetes , anemia, Addison’s disease or low testosterone. Blood work done annually may pick up or give clue to these conditions being present. Bowel polyps, which can turn into a cancer should be screened with occult blood test at age 50, those with a family history or with ancestry  of african decent should start prostate cancer  screening around age 45 and the breast cancer screening should start around age 40. If there is a family history of cancer , heart diseases, diabetes  or other condition that runs in the family then the screening and prevention becomes even more crucial and may have to start earlier then the general population. The earlier the chronic conditions are detected the better the long term out come. If you haven’t had a medical for few years, then phone your doctors office and book one today.

Annual Physical Examination

Diet: In recent years there is increasing evidence that the processed or manufactured food maybe associated with a  low grade inflammation mediated by cytokine. This is very harmful. Let me explain. The cytokine mediate an important healing process in our bodies when some part of our body is invaded by foreign agent or is injured , but only if the process stays localized and get turned off after the threat has been dealt with appropriately. If it becomes generalized and chronic as in autoimmune disorders (for example rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma,SLE , ulcerative colitis , crohn’s disease,ankylosing spondylitis, wegener’s disease, polyarteritis nodosa, sarcoidosis and many more) then it starts to damage normal tissues in the body and causes great harm. The autoimmune diseases have have high levels of cytokine ( which means high level of inflammation in the body) and therefore are  associated with higher incident of heart disease, depression, diabetes etc. It is therefore important to keep the  generalized inflammation  in the body low as possible to prevent chronic diseases and maybe even cancer. Our diet can help us reduce the inflammation, this diet is becoming to be known as the ” anti-inflammatory diet”. Dr Andrew Weil is a big advocate for this diet and has some convincing arguments to back up his claim. He goes into details in he is books which I have listed below. Basically recommends avoiding processed food because fat and carbohydrates in them promote inflammation and in addition fail to provide protective nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and phytonuritents ; which comes from fruits and vegetables. He also recommends foods with antioxidants such as olive oil, tea and chocolate ; novel compounds in ginger, turmeric and other spices and herbs; oily fish for special fats. These all goes towards protecting our body tissues  and organs from inappropriate inflammation. If you want more details check his website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other triggers for inflammation are tobacco smoke, chemicals in the house hold products,pollutants in the air , water, and food. These should be avoided as much as possible.

The other  factors that will reduce inflammation are appropriate use of dietary supplements, exercise, stress reduction,  adequate quantity and quality of sleep. You can assess if you are getting enough restful sleep at :- http://psychologytoday.test.psychtests.com/take_test.php?idRegTest=1329.

Dietary supplement: Dietary supplements should be discussed with your doctor before taking them if you are on medication because there may be interaction with your medication and the supplements.It is generally held opinion by the purists  that if you eat balanced diet, with different coloured fruits and vegetable then one doesn’t need vitamins. However, since the stores are full of manufactured foods and good quality foods are harder to come by especially in winter months; as well  the fruits and vegetables are not properly ripened. So argument can be made for taking multivitamin with minerals tablet, Vitamin D 2000 IU , omega-3 fatty acids in form of fish oil and B- complex vitamins.

Other measure: Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine, recreational drugs, and anti-anxiety drugs if possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These recommendation will at least point you in the right direction for staying free of disease. I will try to deal with these topic in greater details in the future post. Until then stay healthy and happy.

Resources: Spontaneous Happiness – by Andrew Weil, MD

Interchange Blog

Interchange Blog

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