When we think of how we can lower blood pressure, salt reduction, exercise and multiple prescription medicines come to mind.
High blood pressure is a common problem in India, and almost every 5th person in our country suffers from it.
It has aptly been called the ‘silent killer’ as it quietly does its work, damaging the brain, heart and kidney. Many people with high blood pressure are unaware of it until they see a physician or check their blood pressure on a home BP monitoring machine.
As someone who frequents Quora.com to answer questions, I came across one that asked if hugging can lower blood pressure.
So I looked it up, and here is what I found.
Human Gestures That Can Lower Blood Pressure
I decided to take a look at the different human gestures that could potentially reduce blood pressure.
Hugging is a very prominent gesture of love and affection all across the globe. We love our children, so we hug them often.
A reassuring hug from a friend in time of need can make a world of difference to how we feel.
A new mother forgets the pain of delivery when they hold and hug their newborn baby.
Interestingly, hugging can reduce our blood pressure too.
Hugging releases a hormone called oxytocin in the body. This has sometimes been called the ‘love hormone’ as it triggers a number of responses in the body that can relax you and make you feel good.
According to a famous psychotherapist Virginia Satir, we need ‘4 hugs a day for survival, 8 hugs a day for maintenance and 12 hugs a day for growth‘.
Hugging reduces blood pressure by reducing the level of stress one feels. Just a few hugs a day can help fight infection, boost your immunity and lower your levels of fatigue.
It is not just the person receiving the hug that feels better though. Even the one giving the hug experiences the same benefit.
In some parts of the world, people wander around with a sign around their neck saying ‘free hugs’.
Many people go on and hug this person, and it is perceived as a way of connecting socially. However, certain conservative societies frown upon this.
Free hugs are great, but the ones that really make a difference are from those who you know and trust.
Hug a stranger, and you may not really reap the benefits. Furthermore, some perceive free hugs from strangers as a threat and may even find that it invades their personal space.
If there is no one nearby or giving out hugs is not in your nature, just petting your pet can have the same effect. I had previously discussed how having a dog can keep you healthy.
In short, hugging works. So if you see someone you love, give them a hug :-). And hug your child everyday – it will mean the world to them!
2. Holding Hands
As a doctor, I often hold the hands of my patients as a way to comfort them. For many, it is reassuring and works even better than medicines.
High blood pressure has a direct link to stress. The more stressed and high strung we are, the higher the chances of developing high blood pressure.
Scientific studies have found that holding hands can reduce levels of stress, which in turn can reduce blood pressure.
In one particular study, women were asked to wear a small ankle bracelet that delivered a small shock. When the shock was delivered, an MRI scan of the brain was conducted to see which parts of the brain lit up.
Following the delivery of the small shock, the part of the brain trained to handle threats brightened up on the MRI. However, if the women were holding the hands of their partners, it was found that this brightness was significantly reduced.
This indicated that holding hands of their loved ones reduced their stress levels.
When the same women held the hand of a stranger, they did show a reduced level of brightness, but not to the extent seen with their partners.
In other words, holding the hands of their loved one was what reduced their stress levels to the maximum. The stronger their relationship, the lower the MRI signal.
Reports have also shown that children who are not touched or hugged could develop stunted growth. Similarly, adults who do not have their ‘touch hunger’ satisfied also experience depression and excessive stress.
Holding a loved one close and cuddling up to them is something we all enjoy. The warmth we feel and what it does to our emotions is always very relaxing.
Cuddling as the same effect on us as hugging does. It stimulates the production of oxytocin and relaxes the blood vessels, thus bringing down stress levels. This can lower blood pressure.
Cuddling also helps you develop a more positive perspective about the world around you. It can reduce social anxiety and can make you lot more confident.
Cuddling before sleeping can help relax you. This will help you drift off into a deep sleep.
All these effects when combined together can lower your blood pressure and reduce your stress levels.
A smile can be magical. Just look at someone smiling, and you will feel like doing the same.
If you are ever feeling down, then seeing a familiar face smile at you can be reassuring and comforting.
The movement of the muscles of the face that result in a smile is a consequence of an emotional flood in the brain. Smiling more frequently can help maintain a positive mental attitude and gives you a better perspective about life.
Interestingly, even a fake smile seems to have some positive effect.
In one particular study, those who performed a stressful task while smiling had a lower heart rate and lower blood pressure. The researchers called this smile a ‘Duchenne Smile’.
Smiling not only reduces stress levels; over a period of time it can also reduce your blood pressure.
Having a smile on your face makes you more welcoming and approachable.
For example – when you walk into a bank, who would you approach? A grumpy person or someone with a welcoming smile on their face?
Finally, let’s not forget that smiles are contagious. When we see someone smile, it triggers ‘mirror nerves’ which are located in our brain. We automatically smile back! (well….some don’t :0( )
Let’s not forget, smiles are free too!
Sometimes, it is the little things in life that make the biggest difference. Find someone you love and give them a hug or cuddle today. I guarantee it will make their day and could even lower blood pressure!!!