If you are at risk for heart disease or have chronic high blood pressure, guided slow breathing practices may help. According to Harvard Medical School, many individuals find that deep breathing reduces blood pressure, lowers their heart rate, and helps them to feel more calm.
We know that stress poses an increased risk of heart attack and high cortisol levels can restrict blood vessels. Restricted blood vessels can cause your blood pressure to increase as your heart works harder and harder to get the oxygen it needs.
By using deep breathing, you can help reduce stress, increase relaxation, lower cortisol levels, and possibly reduce your blood pressure. Watch the video below and then keep reading for more information.
The Stress-Blood Pressure Connection
Stress is one of the main correlating factors between deep breathing and blood pressure. While research is not conclusive regarding whether stress causes clinically diagnosed hypertension, it does show that it can cause notable spikes when you’re feeling tense.
You will notice that your heart rate increases, you may begin to sweat, become flush in the face, or shake. Your body’s nervous system is going into fight or flight mode and as this happens your blood pressure rises. It’s likely that you become physically uncomfortable during this time. Individuals with chronic high blood pressure may notice these effects more often. Slow breathing can help reduce these symptoms.
How Deep Breathing Lowers Blood Pressure
Deep breathing helps center the body and mind and promotes relaxation. As you begin to relax, your cortisol levels lower, your heart rate slows down, and you will notice that many of the previously mentioned side effects begin to subside.
Ancient practices such as meditation and yoga use guided breathing as a central part of their routines. Experts state that deep, guided breathing helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps your blood vessels to expand, therefore lowering your blood pressure.
One study shows that you can reduce your systolic blood pressure by slowly breathing, taking just six deep, full breaths over thirty seconds. More than 20,000 hypertensive patients participated in the study, yielding promising results.
Getting Started with Deep Breathing
If you are new to the world of deep breathing, or conscious breathing, it may take some practice. But once you master the routine you will wonder how you ever did without it. Not just because of the positive effects on your blood pressure, but also because of your improved state of mind and mood.
To get started with deep breathing, follow these steps:
- Sit or lay in a comfortable position
- Clear your mind and focus on any sensations you feel in your body
- Bring your focus to your breath
- Rest here for one to two minutes as you notice your breathing
- Now, begin counting the time it takes you to inhale and exhale
- Follow the six breaths per thirty second rule stated above
- Or, try inhaling for four counts and exhaling for five
- Repeat this exercise for ten to fifteen minutes as a beginner
As you become more experienced with deep breathing exercises you can experiment with different techniques until you find the one that works best for you.
Try these additional breathing techniques once you become comfortable:
Breath work benefits physical health in many ways and you may find that incorporating it as part of your daily routine becomes second nature.
Guided Breathing to Lower Blood Pressure
Some people find that guided breathing helps them master the practice. Guided breathing is when you use an app, a video or playlist, or take a class that walks you through the process step-by-step. It can be helpful for those who find that their mind frequently wanders, as you get gentle reminders to focus and breathe.
Device-Guided Slow Breathing
Others find that device-guided slow breathing works best for them. Currently, there is one device approved by the Food and Drug Administration for lowering blood pressure through breath work.
The name of the machine is Resperate, and it is a small device that you can bring with you wherever you go. You don’t need a prescription to buy one but it is not a magic cure. It still takes dedication and practice to use properly.
Resperate works by attaching sensors to your chest that communicate with a device that you wear as a belt. The sensors monitor your breathing rate, or how many breaths you are taking per minute. It then plays sounds to help you breathe deeply and slowly with a focus on extending the time of your exhalations.
How to Practice Device-Guided Breathing
Experts recommend that you practice guided breathing for 15 minutes a day. You may go one step further than the six breath per thirty-second rule, and aim to get your breathing to just ten breaths per minute for maximum effect. To reap the full benefit, you should practice every day for several weeks. However, you should not purchase or begin using the machine without getting medical clearance from your doctor, just as with any other medical device.
Where to purchase a Resperate machine:
- Medical Supply Stores
- Select Pharmacies
Be sure to check the packaging on the machine, as Resperate is the only device-guided breathing machine that is approved by the FDA. There are others like it on the market under different brand names, yet they are not evaluated by the administration. You want to be sure you are getting a legitimate, medically safe device.
Alternatives to Device-Guided Breathing
The wonderful thing about guided breathing practices is that you do not need a machine to begin or to learn the methods. There are several breathing techniques that are proven to reduce stress, which may help lower your blood pressure as a result with regular use.
While these techniques do include deep breathing and counted breathing, body scan breathing is another option you may try. It works by centering your attention slowly on each part of your body while focusing on the breath, slowing your heart rate and promoting relaxation.
Before you start with guided breathing practices on your own check out these additional resources regarding breath work, stress, and blood pressure:
- Learn the power of mindful breathing
- Use a meditation playlist to calm your mind and improve focus
- Learn other natural ways you can improve your blood circulation
Speaking with Your Doctor
Before you try deep breathing to reduce blood pressure either on your own or with a device-guided machine, speak with your doctor. See if there are particular breathing techniques that they recommend, or any that they suggest you stay away from. Certain breathing techniques can be dangerous, especially for individuals with underlying health conditions.
Deep breathing is not a cure for hypertension. Many doctors recommend it as an ancillary treatment option to help augment the effects of medication, adjusting your diet, reducing stress levels, and increasing your amount of exercise. It is essential that you continue to follow the regimen prescribed by your primary care physician.
A Note from GR8NESS
GR8NESS is not a substitute for seeking medical care, and we are not doctors or medical experts. The information provided on our site is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease or underlying health condition. We do not endorse any specific products.
GR8NESS is a source of information that you can use as a starting point for a conversation with your doctor. Do not start, stop, or change your course of treatment without speaking with your doctor.