Getting a Grip on High Blood Pressure
Nearly half the adults in the United States (about 45%, or 108 million) have hypertension (high blood pressure). High Blood Pressure (HBP) is defined where the pressure reading is over 130 for the systolic and over 80 for the diastolic pressure. Of those about 30 million take medication for this condition. The systolic or top number measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats, and the diastolic or bottom number measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests. The higher your blood pressure levels, the more risk you have for other health problems such as kidney problems, eye problems, heart attack, heart disease, or stroke. It could cause memory loss, blurred vision, libido issues in both men and women, and result in the excess loss of calcium and cause weaker bones. High blood pressure can damage arteries by making them less elastic, which decreases blood flow and oxygen to your heart and leads to heart disease. High blood pressure is often called the “silent killer” because it usually has no warning signs or symptoms, and many people do not know they have it. Therefore, periodic checks for your blood pressure are important.
The natural recommendations for reducing high blood pressure are to decrease alcohol, salt, and smoking, eating healthy foods and increasing physical activity and losing weight if necessary. Taking time to relax or meditate also helps. A less well-known recommendation but proven to be an effective method, is improving grip strength.
Get a Grip!
In the mid-1970’s the air force had a problem where the G-forces created in the flying of F-16 jets were causing pilots to lose consciousness and black out. They turned to Dr. Ronald Wiley and expert in heart and lung physiology to help. One of Dr. Wiley’s strategies was a hand grip that pilots could squeeze to boost their blood pressure enough to maintain circulation in the brain. This technique did work initially to raise blood pressure during flying maneuvers; however, it had the reverse effect on resting blood pressure after a few weeks of practice.
Dr. Wiley’s findings were repeated numerous times and a meta-analysis of 18 studies by Danielle Bentley and colleagues at the University of Toronto concluded: “Handgrip exercise is an effective modality for resting blood pressure reduction, resulting in clinically significant reductions for men and women of all ages.” Another meta-analysis by Australian doctors reached a similar conclusion. Additionally, it was found to lower systolic and diastolic pressure on average from about 10-15 points which is equivalent to many pharmaceutical drugs.
There are instruments called dynamometers which measure grip strength in a medical setting. The average grip strength for a man is 72 lbs. and for a woman it is about 44 lbs. of force. According to Harvard Medical School, a decrease in grip strength of 11 pounds is linked to a 17% increased risk of heart disease and a 7% increased risk for a heart attack. Even when researchers attempted to adjust their study of more than 140,000 adults for external factors, including smoking and age, they found that grip strength was a stronger indicator for cardiovascular disease than blood pressure. Grip strength can also indicate your risk for stroke and serve as a reliable measurement of your biological age over your biological age.