High blood pressure is also known as hypertension. A condition that increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, vascular dementia and kidney failure. Yet, there are around 5 million people in the UK that may be unaware they have it. This is because there are virtually no high blood pressure symptoms. Which is why high blood pressure is known as the silent killer.
The only way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to have it checked. So, this week Blood Pressure UK is holding “Know Your Numbers Week”. A week that aims to encourage people to have their blood pressure readings taken. It is the UK’s biggest blood pressure awareness event of the year. The theme of this year’s event is STOP stroke.
What do the numbers mean?
Blood pressure readings are two numbers, measured in millimetres of mercury. The numbers are expressed as a fraction. For example, 120/80 mmHg, which is said to be normal blood pressure. The higher number refers to the systolic pressure. Which is the pressure in the arteries during a heartbeat. The lower number is the diastolic pressure. Or, the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest.
Ideally blood pressure would be between 90/60 and 120/80 mmHg. Whilst high blood pressure is 140/90 mmHg or higher. With higher pressure there is more strain on the blood vessels and organs. The heart, kidneys, brain and eyes are commonly affected.
Fortunately, attention to diet and lifestyle changes can improve blood pressure readings. Especially if this includes physical activity and weight loss where necessary. In addition, eating more potassium and magnesium rich foods such as vegetables. As well as eating cold water fatty fish two or three times per week can help. Several supplements have also been shown to be effective in lowering blood pressure.
Lifestyle techniques include:
- relaxation or stress management techniques
- increasing physical activity levels
- ensuring adequate sleep
These along with appropriate dietary changes can make modest but meaningful differences. Yet, for some people this may not be enough. If your blood pressure is still too high you may need medication from your doctor.
Having said that, research confirms some herbal remedies can help. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), a native European plant is one such herb.
Traditionally, yarrow is famous as a wound herb. Said to be named after Achilles. According to folklore, Achilles used the herb as a field dressing during the Trojan war. It was also carried by Roman soldiers for the same purpose.
Yarrow has a reputation for stopping bleeding, both internal and external. Yet, in some ways it regulates bleeding. For example, it can stop or start a nosebleed. It can normalise menstrual blood flow. Both reducing excess bleeding or promoting stuck menstruation.
We also know yarrow lowers high blood pressure, as well as improving the health of veins. Stopping bleeding, moving stagnant blood and clearing blood clots.
Animal studies support the traditional uses of yarrow. Recent studies show yarrow reduced blood pressure in rats. The reduction was dependant on the dose given. Researchers described the herbal remedy as a promising potential hypotensive and cardio-protective agent. They also suggesed it provided protection from high blood pressure related thrombotic conditions.
Yarrow is widely used in traditional medicine and is relatively non-toxic. Yet the herb contains thujone, so it is not recommended during pregnancy. As with any natural product yarrow can cause allergic reactions in sensitive people. In high doses it may increase sensitivity to sunlight.
If you would like to know more about herbal remedies and high blood pressure, see my post Natural remedies to reduce high blood pressure