Breathing Exercises to Control High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is directly linked to heart attacks and strokes, and a third of the adult population of the US has high blood pressure.   High blood pressure has many different causes which is why it can be difficult to treat effectively.   Many people are put on high blood pressure medication, and high blood pressure medication is not perfect and not without side effects in certain populations.  In fact, in many cases people are put on more than one medication for high blood pressure which increases the probability of side effects.

There are other ways to help control blood pressure including regular exercise and dietary changes, but one of the simplest ways to help control blood pressure is focusing on breathing. How we breath can have an immediate and significant effect on stress levels and blood pressure.   Disciplines like Yoga and Meditation have proven blood pressure lowering effects and most of this is linked to the focus on breathing in both of these activities.

Breathing and blood pressure are linked through the sympathetic nervous system.   Shallow, rapid breathing activates your sympathetic nervous system which is involved in the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and norepinephrine.    Controlled, deep breathing helps trigger the parasympathetic nervous system which counteracts the sympathetic system and lowers stress, cortisol and norepinephrine.  This results in relaxation, slower heart rate, lower blood pressure, improved digestion and a sense of calm.

There are many different proven breathing techniques that are easy to learn and can be performed by anyone anytime!   One of the most effective is called the Buteyko Method.     To do it properly you first perform a simple breathing test to see how you are breathing which relates to the level of carbon dioxide in your body.   Breathing to fast and too much actually gets rid of too much carbon dioxide which causes problems.  Using a simple test you can see where you are in terms of carbon dioxide levels and then address it with an easy to do breathing exercise that lowers stress and blood pressure.

Sit straight without crossing your legs and breathe comfortably and steady.

After you exhale pinch your nose close with thumb and forefinger.

Hold your breath and start a stopwatch

When you feel a slight discomfort resume your normal breathing and note the time.

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As per the chart ideally you can comfortably hold your breath for 40 – 60 seconds without any discomfort.

4-7-8 Breathing Exercise

You need to do this at least 2 times per day and up to four times per day.   Here is how you perform the exercise:

Breath in through your nose for 4 seconds.

Hold your breath for 7 seconds.

Breath out through your mouth for 8 seconds.

You can repeat this up to 4 times but no more than 4 times.    It is normal to feel funny or slightly dizzy at first and you can take a break and breath normally between repetitions of the exercise if you need to.

After a month you can increase to 8 breath cycles each time you practice.    After you have been doing it for a month start to use the exercise whenever you feel stressed.     Best results are obtained after 4 – 6 weeks.

You want to breath with your belly so when you inhale your should pull the air down and feel your abdomen expand. When you exhale you push the air out smoothly as your abdomen comes in.

If you nose is blocked do the following exercise to help clear it before you try the exercise:

Take a small breath into your nose, followed by a small breath out.

Then hold your nose for five seconds in order to hold your breath, and then release your nose to resume breathing.

Breathe normally for 10 seconds.

Repeat the sequence

Here is a great video to learn the method:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uxbdx-SeOOo