It’s easy to take breathing for granted as it happens automatically with little effort or thought on your part. Yet poor breathing habits such as deep sighs, gasps, breath-holding or taking rapid, shallow breaths are common, and can contribute to hypertension.
In fact, simply taking time to inhale deeply can lower your blood pressure in less than a minute, whether or not you are taking antihypertensive medication.
How effective is deep breathing for lowering BP?
Japanese researchers checked the blood pressure of over 21,500 people while they were sitting in a clinic or hospital waiting to see their doctor – a notoriously stressful time when blood pressure naturally tends to soar. After resting quietly for ten minutes, patients had their blood pressure measured before and after sitting quietly for another thirty seconds, or before and after taking six, deep breaths in-and-out.
In those taking the deep breaths, significantly greater reductions in blood pressure were seen than in those who just sat quietly. People whose resting blood pressure readings were the highest gained the most benefit.
- For people with normal blood pressure, reductions averaged 6.4/2.3 mmHg.
- For those with untreated hypertension, blood pressure came down by an average of 9.6/3.0 mmHg
- For those taking medication for high blood pressure, the average reduction was 8.3/2.8mmHg.
Deep breathing caused pulse rates to come down, too.
Why does it work?
Deep breathing stimulates stretch receptors in the walls of large blood vessels within the chest. This activates nerve reflexes that lower blood pressure, and also stimulates the vagus nerve to slow your heart rate.
So, next time you’re sitting quietly, take a few deep breaths …..in…..and out ….. slowly, without holding your breath, and your blood pressure will naturally come down.
The higher your blood pressure, the better the results.
See how well this works yourself at home:
- Checking your blood pressure after sitting quietly
- Then breath in-and-out slowly, as deeply as you can, six times
- Check your blood pressure again.
This simple technique brought down my blood pressure by 6/2 mmHg.
Deep breathing lung exercises are available to help improve your ability to inhale deeply for maximum effects.
Yoga and meditation offer similar benefits through relaxation and breath control.
If your blood pressure is raised, self-monitoring is key to maintaining good control.
Image credit: hbrh/shutterstock