Breathing Into Lower Blood Pressure

Did you know that in the U.S. 1 in every 3 adults has high blood pressure [1]? Not only that, but only about half of those individuals have their high blood pressure under control [1]. That’s pretty startling! Hypertension is a growing problem and can be caused by a number of factors including high sodium intake, obesity, lack of physical activity, and smoking. Fortunately, there are ways you can learn to manage your high blood pressure and there are actually things you can do right now to help.

Did you know that taking deep, slow breaths can help lower blood pressure? Yep, that’s right. Right now, as you’re sitting, standing, reading this article, you can begin taking steps to lower your blood pressure by doing some simple breathing exercises. In fact, the FDA has actually approved deep breathing as a treatment for lowering both stress levels and blood pressure [2].

So how can this be so? Well, there’s a few factors that are involved and we will be discussing some of them today.

Calm It Down

First, deep breathing is a means to calm yourself down. Deep breathing triggers relaxation by reinforcing and activating  the parasympathetic system.

Good Riddance to Salt

Second, and this is pretty interesting…deep breathing can help break down the salt in your body, helping your body to process and rid itself of salt with more ease. When you’re stressed out, whether you realize it or not, you may start breathing more quickly and/or shallow. “This not only prevents oxygen from getting to the body and brain, but it can cause the blood vessels to divert blood to the brain to keep a person alert and can also result in acidic blood, which makes the kidneys much less efficient when it comes to them pumping out sodium [3].” This can result in changes in blood gasses as well as hypertension because the kidneys can’t remove sodium as effectively. Deep breaths get more oxygen into your body which helps move that salt along.

Six times a charm!

In one study, the simple act of deep breathing and slowing the breath resulted in their systolic pressure dip as much as 10 mm Hg…after only doing it six times [4]! That’s pretty impressive.

So what do you have to lose? You can start with a simple deep breathing exercise, and over time, see improvements in your health and potentially your blood pressure!

Get started!

Researchers have found that slow breathing at 6 cycles per minute reduced blood pressure in their patients with hypertension [9]. Here are some simple steps to implement this technique:

1. If you can find a quiet place, great! Go there. If not, no worries. The beauty of these exercises is they can help you find your calm no matter where you are or what you’re doing.

2. Start taking slow inhalations and counting as you inhale.

3. Exhale the breath from your lungs, and try to exhale for the same duration as your previous inhale.

4. If you are new to deep breathing, you can begin with an inhale of 3 seconds and an exhale of 3 seconds. Try to extend the length of the inhale and exhale with each breath, up to 5 seconds for each. This will get you into the 6 cycle per minute pattern.

5. Repeat the deep breaths for several minutes. Longer if you have the time (and patience).

Spire is a wearable device that tracks your breathing, activity and state of mind.  It can send you reminders when you’re tense and walk you through guided breathing exercises like the one above.  Learn more at https://spire.io


Resources:

[1] http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_bloodpressure.htm

[2] http://www.timeforwellness.org/blog-view/deep-breathing-more-effective-than-medication-108

[3] http://www.livinghealthy360.com/index.php/how-does-slow-breathing-improve-hypertension-11917/

[4] http://www.sharecare.com/health/high-blood-pressure/article/get-lower-blood-pressure-with-deep-breathing-exercises

[5] http://hyper.ahajournals.org/content/46/4/714.full

Other Resources:

http://www.livestrong.com/article/23038-breathing-exercises-hypertension/

http://greatist.com/health/relieve-stress-just-breath

Breath to lower blood pressure - from spire.io

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