High Blood Pressure, Hypertension & Hypnosis

Gwen Henkel, our Master Medical Hynotherapist wrote an article on High Blood Pressure, Hypertension & Hypnosis in The California Woman Magazine for the July/Aug 2008Issue.


Check out the article here:

High Blood Pressure, Hypertension and Hypnosis
By: Gwenn Henkel, CMH, MH
Certified Medical and Master Hypnotherapist

In a world with many stressful things to be concerned about, one thing that we often hear about is the danger of high blood pressure, or hypertension. We hear these words all the time, but may not really know what they mean.

What is High Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure refers to the force of blood that is pushing against the artery walls as it flows through the body. Just like air in a tire or water in a hose, blood fills the arteries to a certain capacity.  Too much air pressure can case damage to a tire or too much water trying to push through a small hose, can cause damage to the hose. The same is true of too much blood pressure.  It can threaten healthy arteries and lead to life-threatening conditions such as heart disease and stroke.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the most common of all the cardiovascular diseases in the world. It is the leading cause of stroke and a major cause of heart attack. In the U.S. alone, approximately 80 million people over the age of 6 have high blood pressure. That’s one in four Americans and one in three adults. One -third of people with high blood pressure is unaware that they have it.

Years ago when I was a Nursing Assistant at Stanford University Medical Center, I had to take patient’s blood pressure. I remember how interesting it was learning about what BP was and what the numbers meant. With all my interest in cardiology, I became a Unit Coordinator in Coronary Care and Cardiac Surveillance for eight years.

A blood pressure has two numbers. The first and higher of the two is a measure of systolic pressure, or the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats and fills them with blood. I remember my nursing instructor telling us to think of the S in systolic as the sky or œtop number. The second number measures diastolic pressure, or the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats. My teacher said to think of the D in diastolic as down or bottom number.

Normal blood pressure rises steadily from about 90/60 at birth to about 120/80 in a healthy adult. If someone were to take your BP immediately after you had been jogging or if perhaps you were nervous about something, your reading would no doubt read a bit higher than normal. This is not necessary for concern. It is natural for your BP to rise and fall with changes in your activity or emotional state.

People with a BP of 140/90 or higher on at least two occasions are considered as having high BP. If the levels remain high, the doctor will probably begin treatment. Patients with BP readings of 200/120 or higher need treatment immediately.
People with diabetes are treated if their BP rises above 135/80, because these people are already at a high risk for heart disease.

People identified with blood pressures slightly higher than 120/80 as a category at high risk for developing hypertension.  This condition is called prehypertension and affects about 50 million men and women in the U.S.  It is now known to increase the likelihood of damage to the arteries and the heart, brain and kidneys so that many more doctors are recommending early treatment.

Consistently high blood pressure forces the heart to work far beyond its capacity. Besides injuring blood vessels, it can damage the brain, eyes and kidneys. Even so, many people with high BP do not realize they have the condition.  It’s not surprising that sometimes hypertension is sometimes called the silent killer because it rarely causes symptoms even as it inflicts serious damage to the body. If it goes untreated, high BP can lead to vision problems, as well as heart attack, stroke or other potentially fatal conditions, including kidney failure.

Hypertension may also lead to heart failure, a common but disabling condition that can cause breathing problems.  Patients who have very high BP are said to have malignant hypertension. The diastolic pressure in such cases usually exceeds 130 or a systolic pressure above 200. Malignant hypertension is a dangerous condition that may develop rapidly, causes organ damage very quickly and requires immediate medical attention.

People at risk of high blood pressure are:

  • Those with family history of high BP, heart disease, diabetes
  • African American
  • Pregnant or take birth-control pills
  • Over 50 (men: after age 50, women after menopause)
  • Overweight
  • Not active
  • Drink excessively
  • Smoke
  • Eat foods high in fat or sodium

There have been many studies where hypnosis was used to help people with high blood pressure. Patients diagnosed as hypertensive, whose BP’s were normal while they were hospitalized, were often found to require to have their medication increased when they were seen as outpatients. Self-hypnosis was taught to one group of hospital patients; a second group received equal attention and time to relax without the specified procedure; and a third group was monitored with no intervention. On the follow-up, the hypnosis group showed greater downward change in the diastolic BP than the monitored group, with the attention-only group in between. In addition, no subject in the hypnosis group required an increase in their medications. The results suggest both replication with a larger sample and the value of adding self-hypnosis to the standard medical treatment for hypertension. (Copyright © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, LTD)

Also: Friedman, H. & Taub, H. (1977) The use of hypnosis and biofeedback procedures for essential hypertension. International Journal of Clinical and Experiential Hypnosis. 25, 335-347

Friedman, H. & Taub, H. (1978) A six- month follow up of the use of hypnosis and biofeedback procedures with essential hypertension. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. 20, 184-188

In the above two studies, all groups showed a significant reduction in blood pressure after four weeks of treatment. But at the six-month follow-up, only the patients receiving hypnosis had maintained the reduction.

Fortunately, high blood pressure can be controlled effectively. The first step is the discovery of it, so have it checked regularly! Better yet, start learning stress-reduction techniques early, and possibly ward off high blood pressure completely!

Learn how you can:
Change Your Life by Changing Your Mind!

Gwenn Henkel, CMH, MH
Optimal Fitness Lifestyle Center
951-A Industrial Rd
San Carlos, CA 94070

650 380-2494