Hypertension or high blood pressure is a common condition impacting nearly half of U.S adults. High blood pressure is consistently 130/80 mmHg or above. It occurs when your blood pushes against the walls of your blood vessels with excessive force. It forces your heart to work harder and weakens the inside of your arteries, which can lead to life-threatening conditions like heart attack and stroke.
Many different factors cause high blood pressure, including your lifestyle, family history, genetics and existing health conditions.
Fortunately, you can bring your numbers down with a few simple lifestyle changes. A recent study by the Journal of the American Heart Association found you may help improve your blood pressure with five minutes of breathing exercises six days per week. By strength-training their breathing muscles, test subjects experienced similar improvements than if they walked 30 minutes per day or took blood pressure medication. Many patients look to lower blood pressure through breathing as an alternative to medication.
Breath control therapy relaxes your involuntary nervous system, helping regulate your heart and other bodily functions. This guide includes several breathing techniques to help lower your blood pressure and improve your health.
4-7-8 Breathing Exercise
The 4-7-8 breathing exercise is a quick and easy way to lower blood pressure. It takes less than two minutes, and you can do it anywhere, anytime. Follow these simple steps:
- Empty your lungs and inhale through your nose while silently counting to four.
- Hold your breath to the count of seven.
- Exhale through your mouth for a count of eight.
- Repeat this process consecutively three or four times in a row.
Try these tips to make the exercise more comfortable and effective:
- If you’re unable to meet these counts comfortably, slowly work your way up to four, seven and eight seconds. Perhaps start with two, three and four seconds. The main goal is to exhale twice as long as you inhale.
- Tuck the tip of your tongue behind your upper front teeth throughout the entire exercise. Proper tongue posture opens your upper airway.
- Exhale audibly out of your mouth, making a quiet whoosh sound to ensure you’re exhaling consistently at the correct speed.
- Repeat this exercise at least twice per day. More frequently is even better!
- After practicing this exercise for a few months, you can advance to eight breaths in a row. Be sure to take a break if you start to feel lightheaded.
Sama Vritti — Equal Breathing
Sama Vritti, or equal breathing as some call it, focuses on taking consistent breaths. This exercise aims to clear your mind and balance your body. It’s a breathing technique that has a calming effect that reduces stress and slows down your heart, helping stabilize your blood pressure.
You can perform this exercise anywhere you feel comfortable at any time. It’s especially effective at helping you relax before bed since insomnia, sleep apnea and lack of sleep may lead to high blood pressure.
Sama Vritti is extremely simple and only takes a few minutes. Here’s how you do it:
- Rest in a quiet space that feels comfortable. Close your eyes and relax your entire body.
- Slowly inhale through your nose while silently counting to four.
- Hold your breath to the count of four.
- Exhale through your mouth to the count of four.
- Rest without taking a breath for another count of four before starting over.
- Repeat this breathing cycle two to six times per day.
- If you have a hard time breathing, lower the count to two or three seconds until it feels more manageable. The key is to maintain an equal ratio.
- Take a deep breath and fill your abdomen with air. There should be little to no movement in your chest.
- As you become more comfortable with Sama Vritti, you can repeat this exercise for up to 10 minutes.
Consider these tips to make the equal breathing exercise more relaxing and effective:
30-Second Breathing Exercise
According to the Japanese Society of Hypertension, taking six deep breaths within 30 seconds significantly reduces blood pressure. This 30-second breathing exercise is a simple and easy way to help manage stress and promote relaxation. All you have to do is:
- Find a quiet place where you can rest comfortably.
- Set a timer for 30 seconds, close your eyes and take six deep breaths. Slowly inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Each breath should take about five seconds.
- Perform this exercise at least once per day.
Check out the following tips to help you master this technique:
- Be careful not to breathe too quickly. Five seconds is plenty of time to take a slow, relaxed breath.
- Try to keep your spine straight so you can breathe comfortably without straining.
- Repeat this exercise throughout the day for maximum relaxation.
Diaphragmatic breathing is another popular breathing exercise for blood pressure. It focuses on strengthening your diaphragm — the muscle below your lungs that supports respiration. Practicing diaphragmatic breathing helps you breathe more efficiently, so you can take in more oxygen to nourish your body. It also stabilizes blood flow, which improves blood pressure. Follow these steps to perform diaphragmatic breathing:
- Lie flat on your back, bending your knees and using a pillow to prop your neck, so it’s level with the rest of your spine.
- Place one hand on your chest and the other right below your rib cage to help you monitor your breathing.
- Slowly inhale through your nose and imagine filling your abdomen with air. The hand below your ribs should rise while the hand on your chest remains still to ensure you’re expanding your diaphragm correctly.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth. The hand below your ribs should lower gently.
- Repeat this process for five to 10 minutes about three to four times per day.
Try these methods to make this exercise more efficient and convenient:
- Gradually increase the time and frequency of diaphragmatic breathing to improve your blood pressure. You can even place a book on your abdomen to make it more challenging and effective.
- Once you’re comfortable performing this exercise lying down, you can also try it sitting in a chair or standing up.
Lifestyle Changes That Can Lower Blood Pressure
Changing your lifestyle can have a significant impact on your health. In addition to daily breathing exercises, you can also try these tips to lower your blood pressure:
- Quit smoking
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Consume less caffeine
- Exercise daily
- Lose weight
- Eat healthier foods
- Reduce stress
- Prioritize sleep
Improve Your Blood Pressure With Modern Heart and Vascular
With these breathing techniques and other lifestyle changes, you may be able to improve your blood pressure without medication. At Modern Heart and Vascular Institute, we take an educational and holistic approach to treatment whenever possible. We use cutting-edge technology to detect and prevent high blood pressure and other cardiovascular conditions. If you’d like to learn more about our practice, read our providers’ bios.
Contact us today to discuss more strategies to lower your blood pressure or schedule an appointment.
This article does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you need cardiovascular care, please call us at 832-644-8930.