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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? Breathing to lower blood pressure can be an effective strategy. Here’s what happens when you do easy breathing exercises:
- First, you begin to calm your sympathetic nervous system and your fight-or-flight response, which lowers feelings of stress.
- You also begin to increase blood flow to your body’s tissues, which reduces resistance in your blood vessels and increases your exercise tolerance.
- Your diaphragm moves up and down, which facilitates blood flow towards the heart.
Because of all of that, you start to lower your blood pressure.
A study in 2005 showed that simply taking six deep breaths in a period of 30 seconds reduced systolic blood pressure by 3.4 to 3.9 units compared to just sitting quietly. These results are consistent with a long line of evidence suggesting that deep breathing can lower blood pressure.
NEW HYPERTENSION GUIDELINES
Does 140/90 still serve as the threshold for high blood pressure? New hypertension guidelines issued by the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and American Heart Association (AHA) call for a lower reading. Click here for our report.
How to Do Breathing Exercises to Lower Your 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 five seconds and inhale for five 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 to guide you.
Try an 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. Practice daily.
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 five 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.
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.
Originally published in 2016, this post is regularly updated.
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 Hypertens Res. 2005 Jun;28(6):499-504.
 Indian J Med Res. 2013 May;137(5):916-21.
 J Hum Hypertens. 2010 Dec;24(12):807-13.
 J Hypertens. 2013 Apr;31(4):739-46.