Breathing. We can’t live if we don’t do it. And as it turns out, if periodically throughout the day we’re deliberate about how we do it, it can help us lower our blood pressure.
In our pursuit of good health through the management of normal blood pressure, we here at 120/Life want to be on this journey with you by helping to familiarize you with (or remind of) natural and effective tools to augment your blood pressure normalization behaviors. We’ve addressed many topics including food, alcohol, weight, stress management, smoking, exercise, plus many more. All of the topics I just listed are fairly predictable. I’m pretty certain that most, if not all of you knew about those before you’d even been diagnosed with hypertension.
Today, it’s about breathing. And how we can do it in a deliberate way so that it can help us lower our BP.
As it turns out, there are numerous clinical trials showing that consistently practiced slow-paced breathing has a significant effect on lowering both home and office blood pressure. And the effect is even greater when combined with other lifestyle changes and/or BP meds.
Slowed, paced, diaphragmatic breathing affects the part of our nervous system called the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS). When this system is stimulated, in terms of our cardiac health, two things happen: our heart rate decreases and our blood vessels relax. As a result of this, our blood pressure can normalize.
There are many breathing techniques out there. One that I’ve always been partial to is discussed by Dr. Andrew Weil. It’s called the 4-7-8 breathing technique. It activates the PSNS and in so doing improves your heart rate variability, blood circulation and lowers high blood pressure. Here’s how it works:
- Put your tongue at the tip of the front of the roof of your mouth (behind the front teeth). Breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds.
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
- Exhale forcefully through the mouth for 8 seconds.
- Repeat 4 times in a session.
You can and should do this at least 2 times a day. And once you’ve been practicing the 4-7-8 breathing technique for 4 weeks, you can increase the breath cycles in each session to 8.
Here’s a link to a video demonstration by Dr. Weil.
There’s even anecdotal evidence that slow, deep, diaphragmatic breathing can help with digestion AND help you fall asleep at night. A 2011 review article in Health Science Journal noted some of the possible benefits of deep diaphragmatic breathing:
- Decreased fatigue
- Reduced symptoms of asthma in children and adolescents
- Reduced anxiety
- Better stress management
- Reduced Hypertension
- Reduced aggressive behavior in adolescent males
- Improved migraine symptoms
Some of us need more assistance with both getting the hang of slow, deep, diaphragmatic breathing, as well as developing the habit with a consistency that serves our health purposes. One thing that could be helpful for us is routine use of a device to help guide us through this type of breathing. In particular, the device called RESPeRATE can be extremely helpful.
Here’s what it does, according to a clinical study that supports its claims of efficacy:
“During a session of device-guided breathing, the device analyzes the breathing rate and pattern and creates a personalized melody composed of 2 distinct tones – one tone for inhalation and one for exhalation. As the patient synchronizes breathing with the tones, the device gradually prolongs the exhalation tone (primarily) and slows the breathing rate to
So, in summing up: breathe slowly, mindfully, deliberately, and deeply!
Here’s to your health!