Just Breathe: How to Use Breathing Exercises to Lower Blood Pressure

Research shows that this home treatment is remarkably effective. Try these breathing exercises to lower blood pressure and your cardiovascular risk.

breathing exercises to lower blood pressure

"Take a deep breath..." how often have we heard that phrase during a trying or stressful time? It makes sense: Studies show we can use breathing exercises to lower blood pressure.

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Close your eyes and sit up straight. Take a deep breath while you count to five, then count to five again as you exhale. Go ahead and try it right now for six breaths.

It feels good, doesn’t it? Here’s what just happened. First, you began to calm your sympathetic nervous system and your fight-or-flight response, which lowered feelings of stress.[1] You also began to increase blood flow to your body’s tissues, which reduced resistance in your blood vessels and increased your exercise tolerance. Your diaphragm moved up and down, which facilitated blood flow towards the heart.[2] Because of all of that, you started to lower your blood pressure.

A study in 2005 showed that simply taking 6 deep breaths in a period of 30 seconds reduced systolic blood pressure by 3.4 to 3.9 units compared to just sitting quietly.[3] These results are consistent with a long line of evidence suggesting that deep breathing can lower blood pressure.[4]

How to Do Breathing Exercises to Lower Blood Pressure

  1. Find a comfortable, quiet place. Sit up straight or try lying down to promote deep breathing.
  2. Practice diaphragmatic breathing. For breathing exercises to be effective, you must use the diaphragm to take deep breaths. When inhaling, you should feel your abdomen expand (place one hand on your stomach to monitor this movement). Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  3. Try to exhale for 5 seconds and inhale for 5 seconds. That would be six breaths per minute. The goal is to reach a rate of 10 or fewer breaths per minute.
  4. Download a breathing app, such as My Calm Beat, to set your desired breathing rate. The app will chime when it is time to breath in and out.
  5. Spend five to 15 minutes a day practicing your breathing.

High-Tech Breathing Techniques to Lower Blood Pressure

High-tech devices are available to guide breathing and help users take fewer than 10 breaths per minute. The device plays musical tones to tell the user when to inhale and exhale, and straps around the torso to measure the user’s breathing patterns. Researchers found that using this device for 5 minutes at least three to four times per week decreases resting blood pressure in hypertensive patients.[5,6] While evidence for the short-term benefits of device-guided breathing is quite strong, it is not yet known whether or not this treatment can hold a long-term effect on blood pressure.[6]

In addition to maintaining a healthy diet, eating foods that help lower blood pressure, and exercising regularly, taking time out of your day to breathe deeply can help lower blood pressure and make you feel relaxed and revitalized, too.

Share Your Experience

Have you ever tried deep breathing exercises to help lower blood pressure? What other strategies have you tried to lower blood pressure naturally? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Originally published in 2016, this post has been updated.

[1] Hypertension. 2013 Jun;61(6):1360-83.

[2] Cardiol Rev. 2011 Mar-Apr;19(2):47-51.

[3] Hypertens Res. 2005 Jun;28(6):499-504.

[4] Indian J Med Res. 2013 May;137(5):916-21.

[5] J Hum Hypertens. 2010 Dec;24(12):807-13.

[6] J Hypertens. 2013 Apr;31(4):739-46.

  • I’ve been at hypertension to high blood pressure for several years and have used breath control from qi gong practice to lower my pressure by up to 20 units. However, I have not seen a long lasting effect as of yet.

  • Yes i am hypertensive also and try to use breathing excersises but they only help in the short term sadly

  • Shaikh n.

    I m having high blood pressure and today i have checked my bp was 150/110 is this normal in winter season .my age is 48

  • Shaikh n. 150/110 is high any time of year. Please see a doctor to discuss options.

  • My BP has been high, well over 200/100 since 2009. Last visit to Dr a month ago it was 240/110 at times it has been 270/120. I never feel ill with it or get headaches. I did try at different times BP meds but made me so ill it was unreal. Three times was enough so not willing to try a 4th kind. Last one had my heart racing like mad and feeling so unwell, unsocial, unable to sleep, leg cramps at night, mouth so dry at night it would wake me. My poor Dr has finally said, after seeing a graph my hubby did of BP taken each day for 3 months, just get out there and enjoy your life. So they have no idea why it can spike as much as 50 in one day.

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