Deep breathing is also known as diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, paced respiration and belly breathing

We’re all familiar with the term ‘fight or flight’, a reaction also known as the stress response, used by the body to prepare for or avoid a risky situation. It’s there to help us address daily challenges, however the response can start to cause problems if it’s regularly provoked by less than troublesome events. In order to avoid the build-up of stress, it may help to practice breathing control to lower blood pressure.
Deep breathing is also known as diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, paced respiration and belly breathing. When we breathe deeply, the air entering via the nose fills the lungs fully, and the lower belly rises. For many of us the technique may seem unnatural. This is partly down to the emphasis on body image in the West, and the fact that having a flat stomach being held up as attractive, especially in women. This can lead to people holding their stomach muscles in, and interferes with deep breathing, causing us to make shallow ‘chest breathing’ the norm. All of which increases tension and anxiety factors known to be involved in high blood pressure.

How deep breathing control lowers blood pressure

Deep and slow breathing can improve blood flow in the small blood vessels and decrease peripheral resistance as well as regulate heart rate, leading to BP reduction. Deep breathing encourages the body to intake its full oxygen quota, trading it for outgoing carbon-dioxide. This slows the heartbeat and stabilizes blood pressure. Breathing exercises can allow sufferers to control their blood pressure to a certain degree without having to resort to invasive treatments or prescription medication.

How to practice abdominal breathing

Sitting upright, keeping back and neck straight, pull from the abdomen and breathe in quickly through the nose. Allow your belly to expand as the air moves in, then allow that expansion to continue upwards towards the chest. This relieves tension in the chest cavity, so that the pressure in the part of the chest housing the heart and lungs becomes lower than that outside, and blood pressure diminished. Exhale slowly without forcing air out of the lungs, allowing them to expel as much air as they can, comfortably. Breathing should always be smooth and deliberate.

Alternate nose breathing control lowers blood pressure

Alternate nose breathing is another way breathing control lowers blood pressure. Research in the Nepal Medical College Journal found that a yogic breathing exercise, known as pranayama, or alternate nose breathing lowered diastolic blood pressure, the pulse and respiratory rate in 36 subjects over a four week study. Participants had to practice the technique which involves inhaling though alternate nostrils, on an empty stomach every morning.

Device guided breathing control lowers blood pressure

Certain devices can help users to keep track of their blood pressure during breathing exercises. A study in the American Journal of Hypertension indicated that monitoring your blood pressure while breathing with the aid of a device lowered blood pressure by 7.2 mm Hg on average.


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