Slow Breathing Regulates High Blood Pressure

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Several years ago I wrote a few articles showing that exercise, yoga and other strategies were helpful at regulating high blood pressure (BP). Even small reductions in blood pressure can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. The risks associated with hypertension are continuous – this means that with each 2mm Hg rise in systolic BP there is an associated 7% increase in mortality from heart disease and 10% increase in mortality from stroke.

I recently came across a few studies that have shown that paced, slow breathing can significantly decrease blood pressure in patients with hypertension. Joseph et al. (2005) demonstrated that paced breathing at 6 breaths/min for only a couple of minutes was able to decrease systolic BP by more than 8mm Hg and diastolic BP by about 5mm Hg. Similarly, Li et al. (2018) found that paced breathing at 8 breaths/min for 5min lowered systolic BP by about 4mm Hg and diastolic BP by over 8mm Hg. Because the slow breathing was only tested for a few minutes…the long-term effects of daily practice remain to be determined.

For those that are interested in giving it a go, I would recommend wearing loose-fitting clothing and either lying down or sitting back into a chair in a warm environment. Aim to progressively slow your breathing down to 5-7 breaths/min (there are several apps that can help pace your breathing). Breathe with an equal inhalation and exhalation. It may take several sessions to comfortably slow your breath to 5-7 breaths/min…take your time. Enjoy for 15-20min a day!