For people with high blood pressure, eating healthy foods that are low in sodium and getting plenty of moderate exercise are the best ways to reduce it naturally. Medication is usually necessary, too, as prescribed by a doctor. But there’s something else you can do, too, that will decrease your hypertension and help your overall health. It’s something you do constantly, but that you’re probably not doing properly. What is it? Breathing.
New research shows that breathing deeply and slowly every day for a few minutes can lower your blood pressure by several points. For people with hypertension, medication and lifestyle changes are still necessary; the deep breathing should be in addition to that, not instead of it. For people with normal blood pressure, deep breathing can help keep it normal.
Why does it work? Doctors are still figuring that part out. Deep, slow breathing does make the blood vessels relax momentarily, but that doesn’t account for the long-lasting drop in blood pressure.
But when you’re stressed and taking short, shallow breaths that decreases the kidneys’ ability to get rid of sodium, which results in higher blood pressure. So one theory is that deep, slow breathing helps the kidneys do their job better, bringing hypertension down.
Regardless of why it works, it does work in most people. The general idea is to breathe deeply and slowly for about 15 minutes a day, decreasing your breathing from the normal 16-19 breaths a minute to less than 10.
To help hypertension patients accomplish this, a company called InterCure has marketed Resperate, a device that regulates your breathing in the described manner. It’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration and costs about $300. So far, it’s only available on the Internet, where it’s been for sale since 2002.
The device is simple. It looks like a portable CD player, including headphones and soft music. The device measures your heart rate and breathing patterns, and tones in the music prompt you when to inhale and exhale. It’s helped lower blood pressure in clinical trails, and many patients have reported success with it, too. Some people have even been able to lower their blood pressure so much with Resperate that they were able to go off their medication altogether — with their doctor’s permission, of course.
The question is, is it necessary? Resperate doesn’t actually do anything to you from a medical standpoint; all it does is tell you when to breathe. With the right self-discipline, you can do that yourself. Just sit in a relaxed position with your eyes closed, take a slow, deep breath, then exhale just as slowly. Repeat this for 15 minutes.
Still, Resperate is a helpful reminder. Just as a treadmill is more convenient than running around the block a few times, Resperate is handy for helping you breathe properly for a few minutes a day, which you might forget to do on your own if there weren’t a device sitting there, reminding you. It’s no substitution for diet, exercise, and medication, but it’s a nice supplement to those things. The best part: Assuming you’re breathing clean air, deep breathing has no possible side effects!
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