High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a chronic condition that affects millions of people across the globe. In the United States alone, about 103 million adults have a high blood pressure—which is nearly one-half of all adults in America. This prevalence should be a cause for alarm as, when left untreated, having high blood pressure can cause grave danger to one’s health.
You may think that hypertension can only be controlled through strict medication compliance; however, it can actually be managed through simple and easy means, such as breathing exercises.
What Breathing Exercises Do to Your Body
Even for the nonhypertensive, taking a deep breath every once in a while easily makes you feel good—and that’s because it is actually doing more good to our body than you think.
When you do breathing exercises, your sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your fight-or-flight response, reduces your feelings of stress. Eventually, blood flow to the tissues starts to increase, reducing resistance in the blood vessels and increasing your tolerance to exercise. The up-and-down movement of the diaphragm also facilitates blood flow going to your heart, eventually lowering your blood pressure level in the process.
How to do Breathing Exercises Properly
Deep breathing is considered as an effective way to lower blood pressure naturally. In fact, the FDA has approved a breathing training device known as RESPeRATE as a nondrug treatment for high blood pressure. However, you don’t need this device to perform deep breathing exercises. Here are some techniques that you can follow:
- 30-second breathing exercise. A study shows that individuals can lower their systolic blood pressure by simply taking six deep breaths within a span of 30 seconds.
Find a quiet place to sit still and relax. Set a timer for 30 seconds, and just take six deep breaths. You can repeat the steps as necessary.
- Equal breathing. This method is a common beginner breathing technique, wherein you inhale through your nose within four counts and exhale for another four counts. Over time, you may prolong this cycle and count until eight when you inhale and eight when you exhale.
Remember to take brief pauses in between inhales and after exhales to let your lungs rest and relax. Repeat the process as much as you like.
- Diaphragmatic breathing. Since breathing through the diaphragm drives more oxygen to get into the body, this technique should not only strengthen the diaphragm and control our breathing but should also lower one’s blood pressure in the process.
To perform diaphragmatic breathing, you need to lie flat on your back, with pillows propped on your neck and bent knees. With a hand placed on your chest and the other just below your rib cage, start inhaling slowly through the nose and observe.
The hand beneath the rib cage should rise while the hand on the chest stays still. When you exhale, the hand on chest continues to stay still while the hand beneath the rib cage falls.
- 4-7-8 breathing. This breathing technique does not only promote relaxation to the body but also trains it to breathe more deeply on a regular basis. With the tip of your tongue just behind your teeth, start inhaling through your nose up to the count of four (4); hold your breath up to the count of seven (7); and with a whooshing sound, exhale via the mouth up to the count of eight (8). Repeat this process about three to four times consecutively.
Don’t wait until you find yourself in the emergency room with EKG sensors attached to your body to start managing your blood pressure. With these effective breathing exercises, paired with healthy lifestyle changes and proper medication, it is completely possible to maintain healthy blood pressure levels.