How Does Slow Breathing Lower Blood Pressure?
You might be wondering how does slow breathing lower blood pressure? Well it seems that scientists aren’t too sure exactly how slow breathing lowers blood pressure. But they are sure that it does.
There have been many medical studies into the effects of slow breathing on blood pressure. In 2013, the American Heart Association did a review of these studies (along with studies into other non-drug approaches to lowering high blood pressure).
They concluded that the evidence showed that slow breathing definitely lowers blood pressure immediately. And practicing slow breathing regularly may also lower blood pressure in the long-term.
Lower blood pressure fast with slow breathing!
The American Heart Association found that even one short session of slow breathing reduces blood pressure by several points – more than just sitting quietly and resting. Sounds funny, but slow breathing can lower your blood pressure quickly!
Although none of the studies ran for longer than a couple of months, the evidence suggests that continuing to practice slow breathing can reduce blood pressure in the long-term as well.
To lower your blood pressure consistently, the studies show that you need to do at least 15 minutes of slow breathing 3 or 4 times a week. And doing it more frequently is likely to lower your blood pressure even more.
Most of the studies the American Heart Association looked at had used the ‘Resperate’ device to guide the slow breathing exercises. This monitors your breathing via a strap round your chest and uses musical tones to indicate when to breathe in and out. It’s the same principle as using audio tracks to guide your breathing – the key is to breathe at a steady and slower-than-usual rate.
So how does slow breathing lower blood pressure?
Slow breathing slows the heart rate and relaxes blood vessels
Slow breathing helps slow your heart rate and relax your blood vessels. This accounts for the immediate effect of slow breathing on reducing high blood pressure. How slow breathing lowers blood pressure in the long-term is still a bit of a mystery to scientists though.
Slow breathing balances the autonomic nervous system
According to the American Heart Association 2013 report, slow breathing may help balance the autonomic nervous system. (This is the part of the nervous system that controls how our internal organs function, affecting our heart rate, digestion, breathing etc.). It’s thought that imbalance in this system can be responsible for high blood pressure. And it’s thought that steady slow breathing can help balance it.
Breathing slowly might also affect how our blood vessels are functioning and responding (via the central nervous system).
Slow breathing reduces stress and blood pressure
Deliberate slow breathing is also shown to lower your stress levels, both immediately and in the long-term if you do it regularly. So if stress is even partially a cause of your high blood pressure (as it is for many people), then slow breathing will help lower your blood pressure through reducing your stress levels too.
Regularly practicing slow breathing can help you keep your stress levels down in general. It can support you when you find yourself in a stressful situation as you’ll be better able to slow your breathing down in that moment. Which means you’ll be better able to stave off stress-related blood pressure spikes. (More on this here: Slow breathing to reduce stress and blood pressure)
Slow breathing may improve sodium processing
How slow breathing lowers blood pressure another way is through the regulation of salt in our bodies. It’s well known that too much salt increases blood pressure. (See this article on our sister website: Salt and high blood pressure.) However, having too much salt in your body is not just a function of how much salt is in your food but also how your body deals with the salt.
According to preliminary research by David Anderson, a researcher with the National Institutes of Health in the US, it’s possible that slow deep breathing can improve the ability of your kidneys to expel sodium from your body. Or rather, slow breathing can correct the unhealthy shallow breathing we tend to do (especially when tense and stressed) which may be inhibiting the kidney’s ability to excrete sodium.
There don’t appear to be conclusive results on this hypothesis yet though so watch this space…
How slow breathing lowers blood pressure? It just does!
However it works, slow breathing is the fastest way to lower your blood pressure right now. And if you do it regularly, there’s a good chance you can bring your blood pressure down more consistently in the long-term too.
In the words of the American Heart Association:
Slow deep breathing, as practiced by meditation, yoga, and several relaxation techniques, has long been thought capable of favorably affecting BP. A short period of deep breathing (6 breaths in 30 seconds) has been shown to reduce systolic BP by 3.4 to 3.9 mm Hg within minutes in a clinic setting compared with quiet rest. Beyond the short term, it has been postulated that using deep-breathing techniques over weeks to months may additionally yield long-term reductions in BP.
It doesn’t so much matter how many breaths per minute you are doing. The key thing is that you are breathing steadily at a pace that is slower than usual. That way you’ll get the benefits of lower blood pressure, and of course general relaxation and stress reduction.
So there you have it. Take it easy and breathe your way to lower blood pressure. And a more relaxed life!
How to do slow breathing for maximum benefit
Obviously you don’t need anything special to do slow breathing – just your lungs and your attention.
However, it can be tricky to sustain your breathing at a slow and regular pace if you’re not used to it.
To make it easier, you can listen to guided slow breathing tracks. These are tracks with breathing prompts which you can just breathe along in time to.
You can listen to samples of ours here: Breathe Slow audio samples
Guided slow breathing to lower blood pressure
Our Breathe Slow collection consists of five sets of tracks, with breathing prompts for different breathing paces. The whole set is available to buy as digital downloads.
The fastest is 10 breaths per minute (that’s ten breaths in, ten breaths out). The others are 8, 6, 5, and 4 per minute. So you can gradually work your way down to slower breathing rates as you get more used to it. Generally, the more slowly you breathe, the deeper the relaxation you can access.
For each breathing pace there are four different tracks. Three of them have different types of background music so you can choose what you feel like listening to. Studies show listening to music can also help reduce stress and blood pressure. The fourth track is only the breathing prompts. So you can listen to them on their own or play your own music in the background.
If you like the samples, the full set of tracks is available to buy. You’ll get instant access to digital downloads of the tracks,so you can get started right away. You’ll also get a copy of our book, Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally – The Complete 9 Step Guide.
This is an easy-to-follow step-by-step guide to lowering your blood pressure through changes in your diet and lifestyle. There are many foods and drinks which help lower blood pressure as well as many activities and relaxation techniques. The book gives handy tips on how to easily integrate these into your daily life for maximum blood pressure reduction.
Just click on the picture for more information on the book. Or click here to buy the Breathe Slow audio tracks (with the book included).