Tracy Adshead is a yoga teacher specialising in yoga for seniors. She is passionate about bringing healing and healthy ageing to the community.
Health surprises can arrive in many different ways. For the 1 in 5 New Zealanders that have high blood pressure it was hearing that new guidelines around which levels of blood pressure constituted a health risk suddenly meant that they were now considered having stage 1 hypertension.
Blood pressure that’s high over a long time is one of the main risk factors for heart disease and the chances of having persistently high blood pressure increase with age. The good news is that the new recommendations emphasise lifestyle changes and not medication – such as diet, stress management and exercise. Chair yoga targets two out of three of these objectives – physical activity and stress management. Over time the practice allows us to become fitter and calmer, not just in class but in everyday life as well.
There’s another method that is drug-free and easy to do, a number of my senior yoga students have tried this with great results – squeezing a stress ball for 2 minutes, 4 times in a row (with a 2-minute rest in-between each squeeze) 3 times a week. Several studies show that an average of 16 per cent drop in blood pressure can be achieved with this method, the practice is thought to strengthen and widen the arteries.
The main thing to keep in mind when doing hand grip exercises is not to use your full strength as this could raise your blood pressure, go for a low to moderate resistance. Aim to use about 30 per cent of your full strength, a good way to gauge this is to grip your stress ball as hard as you can briefly and then reduce your grip to about one third intensity.
With patience and a little bit of time each day it is possible to control blood pressure naturally and set yourself up to live a longer healthier life.
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