According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, roughly 25 percent of American adults have high blood pressure. This condition, associated with poor eating habits, a lack of exercise, stress and salt consumption, heightens your risk of heart attack, kidney disease, heart disease and stroke. Although it takes great effort to eliminate high blood pressure completely, you can engage in regular breathing exercises to help lower your blood pressure to healthier levels.
Alternate Nose Breathing
Research published in the 2008 edition of the "Nepal Medical College Journal" found that a yogic breathing exercise, called pranayama, or alternate nose breathing (ANB), helped to lower diastolic blood pressure, pulse rate and respiratory rate for 36 volunteers who followed a four-week program. To perform this exercise, first use your index finger to cover your right nostril. Then breathe in as much as possible through your left nostril. Then switch your finger to close your left nostril and exhale the breath through your right nostril. Pause for 2 seconds, then resume by inhaling through the right nostril while still blocking the left. Once you inhale, switch your finger placement and repeat the process. The study had volunteers perform the activity 15 minutes every morning and on an empty stomach.
Some devices, known as 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitors, help users to actively keep track of their blood pressure during breathing exercises. In fact, a January 2001 study in the "American Journal of Hypertension" showed that monitoring your blood pressure while breathing according to the guidance of a device lowered systolic blood pressure by 7.2 mm Hg on average. Once you purchase the 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure equipment, you can get setup. First, you wrap a belt around your upper abdomen, or chest, that connects to a computer machine to record your blood pressure data. Then the device beeps in accordance to your breathing, training you to breathe at a slower, steadier pace. Once the machine decides it has found your most comfortable, relaxing breathing style, it maintains that rhythm to keep your breathing at a steady. As in the study, you should follow the breathing routine at least 15 minutes a day for positive results.
In an April 2001 article in the "Journal of Human Hypertension," researchers demonstrated that following a music-guided breathing exercise helped users to reduce their systolic blood pressure by 7.5 mm Hg on average as compared to a control group that listened to relaxing music and lowered their blood pressure by only 2.9 mm Hg on average. In other words, music-guided breathing exercises can be more beneficial to your blood pressure than listening to relaxing music alone. Just look for any music that encourages you to concentrate on your breathing; that is, music that helps you to take slow and regular breaths.
- Nepal Medical College and Technical Hospital: Effect of alternate nostril breathing exercise on cardiorespiratory functions
- "American Journal of Hypertension"; Device-guided breathing exercises reduce blood pressure: ambulatory and home measurements; Rosenthal, T. et al.; Jan. 2001
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: High Blood Pressure
- "Journal of Human Hypertension"; Breathing-control lowers blood pressure; Grossman, E. et al.; April 2001