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    Taking Control: A Personal Journey

    Issue 141

    B. Jan Montana.

    In issue 140, I told the story of Carter, a Texan who seems to have beat cancer by means of changing his environment. The reason it had such an impact on me is because I’ve been fighting my own health challenges.

    It would not be an exaggeration to say that the greatest killer in society today is stress. It is at the root of many maladies including cardiac disease, obesity, and cancer. Too many people wake up stressed and go to bed stressed (especially those who watch the news before retiring). They may not feel stressed, but their blood pressure is sky high. I was one of those people. Twice last year the blood bank refused to take my donation because my blood pressure exceeded 185/100. That was scary because all the men in my lineage died before the age of 50 – from heart ailments.

    My doctor loaded me up on the usual medications. They dropped my resting BP, but it still averaged 150/90. They also made me dizzy, hyper-susceptible to sunburn, and played havoc with my digestive system. That prompted him to change medications – with similar results.

    I decided to change my diet. My breakfast is eggs and vegetables now rather than carbs. Lunch is a piece of chicken or beef. My dinner is a salad of some type. I snack on homemade cookies made without flour or sugar. Not only that (those who know me, please hold on to your armrests), I stopped drinking beer, at least habitually (switched to single malt – no carbs). I continued to do the same exercises I’d been doing previously, alternating between aerobic and stretching/strength training on successive days. After a month, my weight dropped a dozen pounds (5.443 kilos, to keep it simple) but my blood pressure stayed the same at around 150/90. That was confusing.

    it looked like if this was going to get this fixed, I’d have to take control myself. Ultimately, everyone is responsible for their own health. Western doctors know surgery and chemistry (pills and drugs), but they’re not taught many other means of dealing with disease, so I decided to embark on a journey of discovery.

    After weeks of scouring the web for state-of-the-science information, I came across Dr. Andrew Huberman. He’s a professor of neuroscience at Stanford University who (unlike most cutting-edge scientists) is able to express complicated discoveries in layman’s terms. He was fascinated with the control Eastern mystics displayed over “involuntary” functions like heart rate, digestion, and body temperature. He decided to study those phenomena in a laboratory setting. To make a long story short, he discovered that you can’t control stress with your mind. It’s controlled by the heart rate, which in turn is controlled by breath. To drop your heart rate, you must control your breathing.

    He advocates quick, deep, nasal inhales followed by slow oral exhales. This signals the heart to slow down and the brain to relax. If the inhale is split into two shorter, consecutive inhales (as a child does when she’s crying), its effectiveness is multiplied. Furthermore, his lab tests revealed that slowly moving the eyes back and forth, as if scanning a horizon, also lowers blood pressure. That result astonished him. Currently, I employ these two techniques concurrently probably 10 times per day; every time I sit down, every time I go to bed, every time I wake at night, and upon rising. It has become a habit (don’t practice if you’re driving or need to be alert!). As a result, I’ve been able to reduce the number of my blood pressure medications from four to two, and the prescribed doses to 1/4 and 1/2, with no more perceptible side effects.

    At my physician’s office yesterday morning, his nurse read my blood pressure at 118/72. (I’d practiced Huberman’s techniques in the waiting room.)

    Of course, it fluctuates with activity, as it should. I learned that what matters is the resting heart rate, which is generally the lowest rate of the day. Apparently, anything below 140/85 is fine for people over 50.

    Some people think their resting heart rate will appear first thing in the morning when they rise. Huberman explains that’s not true. The particular combination of yellow/blue light that the sun manifests in the morning triggers the brain to increase the heart rate. (Early man needed to be alert when he first stepped out of the cave.)

    My resting heart rate usually appears in the late afternoon before supper. If I haven’t been doing the breathing/eye exercises, it’s normally 130 something over 80 (plus or minus 4). It’ll drop after Huberman’s exercises.

    Anyone concerned with stress/ blood pressure problems may want to watch Dr. Andrew Huberman’s lectures on YouTube.

    Dr. Bruce Lipton (also on YouTube) is another cutting-edge scientist who believes that the mind determines health to a far greater degree than conventional medicine has acknowledged. He’s a retired University of Wisconsin medical school professor and former Stanford researcher. He wrote The Biology of Belief, one of the most empowering books I’ve ever studied.

    When he went to medical school, he was taught that “genes are destiny”; they determine the health and lifespan of patients – who are just victims of their genes. Little can be done to ameliorate that except surgery and pills.

    But when he started his cell research, he observed that cloned, genetically identical cells expressed differently depending on the culture medium into which they were placed. The environment determined which genes were activated – they were not self-directed.

    Studies of identical twins separated at birth showed that they expressed differently as well. Some were healthy and long-lived, others not. Clearly, genes are not destiny?

    Dr. Lipton found that a person’s mindset plays a major role in determining the gene’s environment: “Brain cells translate the mind’s perceptions (beliefs) of the world into…chemical profiles that, when secreted into the blood, control the fate of the body’s 50 trillion cells.”

    In other words, the mind plays a large part in triggering the chemicals and proteins that end up in the blood (the culture medium) which controls the activity of genes.  Negativity in – disease out.

    “You are more a victim of your consciousness than your genes,” he asserts, “Your belief carries more power than your reality.”

    As evidence, he cites that 30 to 50 percent of the time, placebos are as effective as drugs in clinical trials. If patients believe they’ve taken the cure, they get better, whether the pills are effective or not. He’s astonished that the “placebo effect” isn’t more closely studied by mainstream medicine.

    Dr. Lipton contends that the pharmaceutical industry, which largely controls medical education worldwide, will continue to suppress the healing power of the mind until it can devise a way to bottle and sell it.

    Header image courtesy of Pixabay.com/Gerd Altmann.

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