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    Treating Hypertension 'Naturally'

    High blood pressure treatment isn't limited to drugs. Lower blood pressure naturally. Natural treatments such as meditation and diet can have a significant effect.

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    TM involves the repetition of a word or phrase (known as a mantra) while seated in a comfortable position with the eyes closed. Most TM practitioners suggest it be practiced for 20 minutes a session, twice a day.

    In a study led by Schneider and reported in 1995 in the journal Hypertension, TM was compared with progressive muscle relaxation as a means of controlling stress in older African Americans with high blood pressure. Of the 197 men and women (out of 213) who completed the screening, the reductions in blood pressure in the TM group were significantly greater than those in the progressive muscle relaxation group. TM reduced systolic blood pressure by more than 10 points and diastolic pressure by more than 6 points (compared with a 5 point reduction for systolic and a 3 point fall for diastolic with progressive muscle relaxation).

    Schneider is conducting a study on the use of TM in the prevention of high blood pressure in African Americans (a population at significant risk for high blood pressure). The study is not yet complete, but preliminary evidence indicates that TM is useful for high blood pressure treatment and prevention, too.

    Learning TM is not difficult, says Schneider, but it should be learned from a qualified instructor. "You need someone there to guide you, and to give you feedback," he says. "Otherwise, you won't get the full effect." To find an instructor near you, call 1-888-LEARN-TM.

    TM is not the only non-drug approach to high blood pressure treatment. The role of diet comes into play, too, says Lawrence J. Appel, MD, MPH, professor of medicine, epidemiology, and international health at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore. Of these therapies, most are related to diet and include reducing your salt intake, drinking alcohol in moderation, increasing your potassium intake, and overall, eating a healthy diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.

    Most evidence to date indicates that a diet high in salt can have an adverse effect on blood pressure, says Appel. Recent studies have also shown that a reduced salt diet can prevent high blood pressure in persons at risk for the condition, can help control high blood pressure in elderly persons who are on blood pressure medication, and can potentially prevent heart problems in overweight individuals.

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