One in 5 Canadians suffer from hypertension or high blood pressure. When we have high blood pressure, it means that we’re also at risk for:
- heart attack or failure,
- heart enlargement,
- arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries),
- atherosclerosis (plaque formation within arteries),
- and kidney disease.
Any of these will alter our quality of life for the worse so taking steps to reverse the effects is the best way to not only prolong our life but enjoy a high quality of life. Know if you’re at risk.
Here are some of the factors which may indicate that you’re at higher risk of hypertension:
- men until age 55
- women more than men after age 55
- diets with too much sodium or not enough potassium
- lack of physical activity
- drinking too much alcohol
Tai Chi as a Replacement for Pharmacological Approaches
People at risk of hypertension tend not to seek out medication as the first choice for returning their blood pressure to the normal range. When it comes to antihypertensive drugs, there may be adverse reactions or side effect.
In fact, a meta-analysis of 28 studies of adequate quality showed tai chi to be just as effective as first line antihypertensive medication when tai chi was practiced 3x a week for an hour each time over a period of 20 weeks. And, when they looked at the numbers for people who practiced more than 3 times per week, they found the blood pressure for these people reduced by even more than the traditional pharmacological approaches.
Reduce Hardening of the Arteries with Tai Chi
With high blood pressure, one of the side effects is hardening of the arteries or lack of arterial compliance. Arterial compliance is the elasticity of our blood vessels to respond to the changing needs of our bodies for blood. Our arterial compliance diminishes with age, menopause, diabetes and smoking. When we have adequate arterial compliance, we can also avoid high blood pressure and other cardiovascular pathologies associated with hardening of the arteries.
While we could improve our arterial compliance with aerobics, if we’re not in good physical condition to start with, we might find aerobics too strenuous as a starting point. Tai chi, while visually not a highly intensive work out on the surface, has amazing cardiovascular benefits including improving arterial compliance which is the key to staying young and aging gracefully.
Beyond health benefits that resemble those of traditional aerobic exercises, studies show that tai chi also significantly improves overall muscle strength and especially the extensors and flexors around the knee. Not only is this great for those of us who are aging gracefully, we’ll also exert ourselves less and maintain our balance when we can use strength to assist us in more taxing activities such as going up and down stairs or other similar activities.
Stress Reduction with the Moving Meditation of Tai Chi
Our fast paced lives manifest itself as stress on our bodies in various ways. Stress often results in high blood pressure. One of the great qualities of tai chi is that it’s been nicknamed the “moving meditation” not only because of its ability to get us focused on the movements and helping us stay in the here and now but also because if its flow of movements. This graceful flow of movements in sequence helps us slow the rhythm and pace of our own body’s flow.
Many of the studies on tai chi suggest that this meditative quality is one of the advantages of tai chi for lowering blood pressure over many of other forms of exercise.
Tai Chi is Safe & Social
Tai chi is safe to practice for many people who have physical conditions which may limit what their body can handle. For those with high blood pressure, tai chi does not over stress the body due to the even and slow pace of movements. However, we do break a sweat and build core and lower body strength. People are often fooled by its effectiveness due to the slow pace of the practice. The pace is slow only in practice to cultivate deep muscle memory. Once ingrained into our body it becomes instinctive and can be applied as a martial art.
At our studio, you can take it to this next level as well. Tai chi movement skills can be applied to the ever enjoyable weapons classes or push hands classes where people apply new found strength, flexibility and endurance to more advanced martial arts techniques.
Traditionally, tai chi has been a social event. Not only do people practice the movements together, but people share social time together. Whether it is just a cup of tea or a little time chatting before or after a practice session, we tend to get to know everyone else at the studio eventually.
So, if you want to enjoy a more healthful lifestyle and start reducing your high blood pressure, come out and try a tai chi class.