High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a serious health condition as it is the number one risk factor for stroke and heart disease.
As most of us know, it’s important to keep our blood pressure in a healthy range. Normal blood pressure is between 120/80 mm Hg and 129/84 mm Hg.
Blood pressure is the measure of pressure or force of blood being pumped out of the ventricles exerting force against the walls of your blood vessels, known as arteries. The top number represents the pressure exerted on your arterial walls when your heart contracts and pushes blood out known as systolic. The bottom number is the pressure exerted on the walls of your arteries when the heart relaxes and fills up again between beats known as diastolic.
Blood pressure that is consistently more than 140/90 mm Hg when measured in the doctor’s office or 135/85 mm Hg when measured at home is considered high. If you have diabetes, 140/90 mm Hg is high.
If left untreated, high blood pressure can damage blood vessel walls, causing scarring that promotes the build-up of fatty plaque. This build-up can narrow and eventually block arteries. It also strains the heart and eventually weakens it. Very high blood pressure can cause blood vessels in the brain to burst resulting in a stroke. 
Causes for high blood pressure are separated into two categories as follows:
Primary hypertension is the most common form, accounting for between 90–95 percent of all cases of hypertension. High blood pressure can result from aging, genes and environmental factors. Lifestyle factors can contribute to the ailment, smoking, a diet high in sodium, high in fat and alcohol intake can be risk factors causing high blood pressure.
Secondary hypertension results from an identifiable cause. Renal (kidney) disease is the most common secondary cause of hypertension. Blood Pressure increases due to an overload of fluid production of hormones created by the kidneys via the RAS (renin-angiotensin system), increasing one’s risk of developing hypertension. Other causes of secondary hypertension include obesity, sleep apnoea, pregnancy, and certain prescription medicines, herbal remedies and illegal drugs.  
If you think you may be at risk or you have already been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it is advisable to speak with your physician in regards to changes in diet and exercise and about steps to keep your blood pressure under control.
Being physically active for at least 30 minutes to 60 minutes a day a minimum of five days a week doing moderate to vigorous physical activity is highly recommended so as to reduce high blood pressure.
In combination with this, incorporating the DASH eating plan, which is the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, can help lower your high blood pressure. A healthy diet with a variety of whole grains helps boost levels of serotonin, a calming brain chemical. Lean proteins and fatty fish (which is high in Omega-3 fatty acids) can help protect against heart disease, and mood disorders. Also include nuts, fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamins C, E and B vitamins, which can make you more resilient to stress attacks which can induce high blood pressure. Including green leafy vegetables into your diet is beneficial as they are a rich source of magnesium a mineral that relaxes the nerves and muscles. 
A diet high in sodium and low in potassium may lead to high blood pressure so add potassium rich foods like bananas and avocados to your diet. Always avoid canned and processed foods due to high levels of salt and preservatives. Limit or omit salt and saturated fats, such as trans fats as these can worsen the condition.
Include cold pressed olive oil in its raw form into your nutritional plan as recent studies indicate that regular consumption of olive oil can help decrease both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Stimulants such as tobacco, excessive alcohol consumption should be avoided as consumption directly raises blood pressure, and further acts to damage the walls of the blood vessels.
Practicing yoga is an effective method in assisting in blood pressure management since it combines the benefits of meditation, muscle relaxation and exercise.
Yoga strengthens, stretches and tones the muscles, tendons and joints. It can be part of an exercise program and assist you in reaching and maintaining a healthy body weight which is important since being overweight can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure. If you are overweight, losing excess weight can help reduce your blood pressure as well as dramatically decrease your chances of having a stroke or heart attack.
The breathing process is important when performing any yoga pose as it brings life to the pose. Ensure that you are able to breathe comfortably and deeply. Your breathing while performing poses should always compliment the pose and be fluid and deep. If you have any difficultly breathing, stop and try a beginner version of the pose. If the difficulty breathing persists than consult your healthcare practitioner immediately.
Regularly practicing yoga poses is an excellent cardiovascular workout, which also stretches, tones and strengthens the muscles of the entire body, thereby improving overall health. Additional benefits of yoga are that it improves blood circulation throughout the body and can be performed anywhere on a daily basis.
For new yogis, the sequence of the asanas should be approached in a gentle fashion, allowing the body to relax and become familiar with each pose. As you become more comfortable and accustomed in your yoga practice a more vigorous method can be quite beneficial. The pace is up to you as it can be performed in a gentle fashion or more vigorously in order to get the heart rate up and be part of a weight-loss program. Ideally any pose where your heart is not above your head is beneficial for this condition such as agnistambhasana (Fire Log Pose) and virasana (Hero Pose).
If you are not experienced in inversions such as salamba sirsasana (Supported Headstand) or halasana (Plow Pose) you should not perform them as they are very stimulating postures since the head is below heart level causing an increased demand for oxygen increasing blood flow and the heart rate generating pressure to the blood vessels of the brain. Inversions should only be practiced by experienced yogis or under the guidance of an experienced instructor and the approval of your doctor.
Yoga an excellent way of controlling your blood pressure, and coupled with a proper diet, can be part of a life-long commitment to a healthier lifestyle.
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Paula Oliveira is a CanFitPro Certified Personal Trainer, Yoga Instructor and mryoga.com Yoga Columnist. Always on the go she loves all things fitness. In addition to Yoga she loves to run marathons, cycling and boxing. She enjoys assisting others in growing in their yoga practice and meeting their fitness goals. Her motto in the words of Bruce Lee ” There are no limits. There are only plateaus. If you put limits on anything you do, physical or otherwise, it will spread into your work, into your life. There are no limits, there are only plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them” Her favorite yoga poses are inversions and arm balances and basically any yoga poses that challenges her strength and balance. Her favorite exercises are any routines that strengthen her legs and core.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel