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Breathing Exercises for Hypertension

Natalie Stein
May 27, 2020
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Hypertension is the second-leading underlying cause of death (smoking is first), but lifestyle changes can be amazingly effective at lowering high blood pressure. In the Lark hypertension study, the average blood pressure among patients with hypertension decreased in six months while using Lark and a home blood pressure monitor. Breathing exercises for hypertension can be part of your plan to manage hypertension, and here is an overview.

What Is Hypertension?


Hypertension is high blood pressure, or a higher-than-normal force of blood against walls of blood vessel walls. A reading of at least 130/80 mm Hg is considered hypertension. People are more likely to develop hypertension if they have a family history of hypertension, are older, or are African-American or Hispanic American.

Some ways to lower risk for hypertension are losing weight if you are overweight or obese, becoming physically active, improving nutrition quality of what you eat, getting adequate sleep, and getting conditions such as diabetes and high cholesterol under control. Managing stress better can also lower blood pressure. 

Along with taking medications as prescribed, these same changes can also help lower blood pressure if you already have it. Lark for Hypertension coaches patients on these lifestyle changes. 

How Can Breathing Exercises Affect Blood Pressure?


Slow breathing exercises are a stress management technique that can help lower blood pressure. In one study, participants who used a smartphone app that coached on deep breathing for 3 months had an average decrease in systolic blood pressure of -8 mm Hg.

Even a single session of slow breathing and mental relaxation can reduce blood pressure, along with heart rate and breathing rate. 

When to Try Breathing Exercises


Breathing exercises can lower blood pressure quickly, and continuing breathing exercises for weeks or months can help keep blood pressure lower during that period. It may be good to practice breathing exercises on a regular basis, such as in the morning or evening, as well as in certain situations when you may need help getting blood pressure down. These can include the following.

  • Before taking a blood pressure measurement at home or in the doctor’s office so your reading is accurate and not artificially high.
  • Before what may be a stressful situation, such as before giving a presentation at work or walking into a dental appointment.
  • Before reacting in a possibly negative way, such as getting angry with your spouse or children or engaging in road rage when another car cuts you off.
  • When you feel stressed.

Sample Breathing Exercises


There are many types of breathing techniques. It can work to try them all and see which you like. It is important not to get stressed over the exact breathing techniques themselves because that can have the opposite effect – it can raise your blood pressure! Instead, focus on your breathing and acceptance of yourself.

Deep breathing is simple, but it can be effective. It involves taking long, deep breaths while lying or sitting in a comfortable and focusing on your stomach rising and falling.

Breath Focus has you imagining peacefulness as you breathe in, and imagining you are releasing tension as you breathe out. You can also say a simple phrase with each inhale and exhale. It could be something like, “I breathe in calm,” as you breathe in, and, “I breathe out stress,” as you exhale.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation has you working up your body, as you breathe in and out slowly, until you are completely relaxed. Each time you inhale, tense a muscle group. When you exhale, relax those muscles. Start with your toes, then progress to your feet, ankles, calves, thighs, rear-end (glutes), stomach, chest, shoulders, arms, fingers, and neck.

Controlled Equal Breathing has you counting as you breathe and controlling your breathing so you breathe in for the same amount of time you breathe out. You might start by breathing in as you count slowly to four, then breathing out as you count to four, then repeating a few times. As you practice, you can increase the length of time you count for each breath.

Help with Breathing Exercises and Hypertension


Do you need help managing stress and mastering breathing exercises? Lark for Hypertension can help you practice breathing techniques so they can become habits and you can rely on them whenever you need them. You can also learn and practice more techniques for managing stress to lower blood pressure.

Lark’s coaching includes plenty of other areas to help you get blood pressure down. From eating right, losing weight, and getting more physically active, to taking medications as prescribed, Lark encourages you to make small changes in your daily routines so blood pressure control becomes easier. Your Lark coach is available all the time to give feedback, let you log your data and track your progress, and offer tips.

These small changes can add up to big results. Participants in the Lark hypertension study had access to Lark for 6 months. In that time, the average decrease in systolic blood pressure was over 8 mm Hg – not shabby! Deep breathing and other breathing exercises for hypertension could fit into your own plan to control blood pressure.

Author
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health