A panel of researchers, led by Dr. Robert Book, a professor of medicine from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, was set up by the American Heart Association to compare the effects of non-drug therapies to drug treatments.  Dr. Brook explained that, “A common request from patients is, ‘I don’t like to take medications, what can I do to lower my blood pressure?’ We wanted to provide some direction.”  The researchers published their findings on April 22, 2013 with the Journal, Hypertension, which stated that  “alternative approaches could help people with blood pressure levels higher than 120/80 mm Hg and those who can’t tolerate or don’t respond well to standard medications.”  The reported stated that slow breathing device, Resperate, demonstrated “significant” blood pressure lowering evidence.

The report went on to explain that, “slow deep breathing, as practiced by meditation, yoga, and several relaxation techniques, has long been thought capable of favorably affecting blood pressure (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 mmHg 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.”   Such breathing exercises, while beneficial, have proven difficult to achieve for many people on their own.  As for yoga and other relaxation techniques, strong clinical evidence is lacking to recommend these alternative therapies to reduce blood pressure.

The researchers explained that, “several methods to help achieve slow breathing have been promoted. One device has received US Food and Drug Administration approval for over-the-counter distribution ‘for use in stress reduction and adjunctive treatment to reduce blood pressure.  This interactive system uses a belt around the thorax to monitor breathing rate, which feeds real-time data into a small battery-operated controller box, which in turn generates musical tones into headphones, corresponding to inspiration and expiration. Studies support that most people find it easy to use the device and experience a prompt and effortless reduction in respiratory rate as they match their breathing pattern to the musical notes.”

“The overall evidence” the report concludes, “from clinical trials and meta-analyses suggests that [Resperate] device-guided slow breathing can significantly lower BP.”  There are no known contraindications to the use of the device, and no adverse effects have been noted.” The researchers then point out that, “specific and more detailed recommendations for use of Resperate are outlined by the manufacturer.” For example, “according to trial evidence, 15-minute sessions of device-guided slow breathing need to be performed at least 3 to 4 times per week to reduce BP. It has been suggested”, the report notes, “that more frequent use may lead to greater BP lowering; however further evidence is required in this regard.”

The report lastly states: “Device-guided breathing is reasonable to perform in clinical practice to reduce BP. Should additional studies in larger and broader populations corroborate its effectiveness thus far demonstrated, it is conceivable that this technique may merit even stronger recommendations in the future.”

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