Why ‘breathing better’ is the cure for hypertension 


  • Learning to control your breathing can help reduce hypertension, experts say
  • Researchers say the same neurons that control breath control blood pressure 
  • When you learn to breathe deeply and slowly, your blood pressure decreases
  • Experts say deep breathing also improves cardiovascular health and replenishes the body with oxygen

Mary Kekatos For Dailymail.com

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Learning how to regulate your breathing could be the cure for hypertension if it’s caught early enough, a new study claims.

Scientists say the neurons which control your breathing also control your blood pressure and, therefore, breathing deeply can help lower your levels.

Hypertension, or abnormally high blood pressure, has been labeled a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke.

High blood pressure runs rampant in the US, with one in every three adults showing elevated levels.

Because of this, researchers say it is vital that effort is placed into identifying people at risk early before it’s too late.

Learning to ‘breathe better’ – more slowly and deeply – can help reduce and even cure hypertension, a new study claims

Breathing and blood pressure are functionally linked through the sympathetic nervous system, which sends signals to the heart and blood vessels.  

Researchers at the University of Melbourne and Macquarie University, in Australia, discovered that when neural activity was interrupted in young adults, they could control blood pressure.

The altered neural activity leads to increased fluctuations in blood pressure with every breath taken. 

‘By interrupting the activity between these two groups of neurons during adolescence, we were able to dramatically reduce development of high blood pressure in adulthood,’ said lead researcher Professor Andrew Allen of the University of Melbourne.

Professor Allen added that the research paralleled what professional athletes and eastern philosophies have long understood about the link between breathing and heart rate.

FIVE MORE WAYS TO LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE 

1. EAT LESS FAT 

Saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in our blood – one of the main causes of high blood pressure. 

Reducing your intake of fat can help prevent or reduce high blood pressure. 

2. CUT DOWN ON SALT 

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams (mgs) a day and an ideal limit of no more than 1,500mg per day for most adults.

Most people today, however, consume much more than that. The average intake of sodium is about 3,400mg daily.

 3. EXERCISE MORE

Getting in more exercise can help lower your blood pressure. It will also help you to lose weight and reduce the amount of cholesterol in your blood.

4. DRINK ALCOHOL IN MODERATION 

Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure to unhealthy levels. Having more than three drinks in one sitting temporarily increases your blood pressure, but repeated binge drinking can lead to long-term increases. 

Men should be drinking no more than two alcoholic beverages a day and women should aim for one a day

5. GIVE UP SMOKING 

If you smoke it will not directly affect your blood pressure, but it will cause your arteries to narrow.  

‘Biathletes have to regulate their breathing to slow down their heart rate before rifle shooting, and eastern meditative practices such as yoga and pranayama have always emphasized the interaction between the two,’ he said.

Lauren Hanna, founder and director of Sonic Yoga in New York, says that learning to slow down breathing awakens the sympathetic nervous system and releases positive hormones throughout the body.

‘Your blood pressure goes down, it increases cardiovascular capacity, and essentially you’re extending your life,’ she said. 

Research has shown that breathing deeply and slowly encourages the body to intake its full oxygen quota.

‘Our body runs on oxygen, oxygen is its fuel,’ Hanna explained.

‘So when we get more oxygen, it gives our body energy, purifies our organs, we think better and function better.’ 

Deep breathing can also send oxygen into the blood vessels which improves blood flow, decreasing peripheral resistance (resistance of the arteries to blood flow) as well as regulating heart rate – both of which reduce blood pressure. 

The researchers say, however, that any intervention should be done early while the nervous system is still plastic, which is during adolescence.

In adulthood, the interaction between these neural circuits becomes fixed and any reductions in blood pressure from breathing adjustments appear to be temporary.

They add that this emphasizes the need to identify people at risk of developing high blood pressure early – especially because many don’t show any symptoms before a diagnosis. 

‘By understanding what predictors of hypertension are easy to assess, we might be better placed to offer early treatment to pre-hypertensive patients,’ Professor Allen said. 

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