How Breathing Helps To Regulate Blood Pressure – And How You Can Take Advantage Of It
(This article has been reprinted courtesy of the highbloodpressurehq.com)
The ability to control blood pressure and other body processes naturally is the holy grail of alternative health practitioners. Now some of their claims once dismissed as preposterous are gaining mainstream respect. In particular, it seems they’re on to something with abdominal breathing and “chi-kung” – exercises that use breathing to heal and strengthen the heart and entire body.
Some of this should be no surprise. We all recognize that our respiratory rate increases in sync with our heartbeat (and blood pressure, although this we don’t feel) in response to fear, anger or other severe stress. The respiratory and circulatory systems are inextricably linked. So it seems only logical that heartbeat and blood pressure should also decrease in response to slowing the rate of breathing.
Of course, things that simply “have to be true” have a habit of turning out to be wrong but, luckily, this is a case where logic proves out. Clinical research confirms that breathing, among its many other benefits, does indeed influence the circulatory system and helps to regulate blood pressure.
How it does this is where science and alternative or Eastern medicine part ways. According to Eastern principles, breathing slowly and deeply into the abdomen strengthens the heart by stimulating “chi”, the mysterious energy said to be the life force. But despite the compelling effects of acupuncture, also said to be due to chi, there is no scientific evidence for its existence.
While chi remains a mystery there are several concrete physiological processes that can account for the effect of slow breathing on blood pressure:
Our tension level is reflected in our breathing. When stressed we breathe quickly and shallowly, which builds up muscle tension, especially in the chest area. This constricts blood vessels and raises blood pressure.
Therapeutic slow breathing relaxes muscles deep into the chest, allowing major blood vessels to open and relieve pressure on the heart. The result is lower blood pressure.
What is often called abdominal breathing also promotes circulation and can reduce blood pressure by taking some of the load off the heart. This should more correctly be called “diaphragmatic breathing”.
The diaphragm is a large sheet of muscle separating the thorax or chest cavity from the abdomen. What happens in diaphragmatic breathing is that the diaphragm expands downward to draw the breath deep into the lungs. This rhythmic expansion and contraction of the diaphragm, the largest and most powerful muscle in the body, acts as a membrane pump to aid the circulation of blood, especially venous blood from abdomen to thorax or upper chest area. With its large surface area the diaphragm can move a surprising quantity of blood.
The third way that slow breathing can lower blood press and benefit the heart is chemical, not mechanical, but stress again plays a role. Dr. David Anderson, a researcher with the National Institutes of Health, explains that under chronic stress people tend to take shallow breaths and hold them without being aware of it. He calls this inhibitory breathing. Breathing in this way knocks the blood chemistry out of balance, increasing its acidity. Acidic blood makes the kidneys less efficient at pumping out sodium and this in turn raises blood pressure.
Dr. Anderson believes that slow breathing may be able to reverse this effect. He says that people practicing slow breathing “may be changing their blood gases and the way their kidneys are regulating salt.”
The remarkable thing is that each of these processes mimics the action of one or more blood pressure medications, but in a totally natural way without side effects.
Here’s more good news: you don”t need to become a chi-kung master to take advantage of slow breathing. Simple breathing techniques have been developed that anyone can use to help reduce and control their own blood pressure in just minutes a day.
Although there are programs available that can make learning faster, easier and more effective, anyone can benefit from these techniques on their own almost immediately. The basics are simple:
First, simply relax. Listening to slow, soothing music can help. Plus, music can actually help regulate your breathing as it wants to synchronize with the music’s slow beat and tempo.
As you relax, slow your breathing as far as comfortable. Don’t go beyond your comfort threshold.
After becoming comfortable with a slower rate of breathing start to extend the length of your exhale. Relax totally into it when exhaling. Shoot for gradually extending your it to about twice the length of your inhale.
Don’t use any form of counting or other timekeeping; it will only disturb your relaxation. As long as your timing is in the ballpark you will feel the benefits.
Continue for 15 minutes and repeat several times a week. Your breathing rate will gradually decrease a little each time while your benefits increase.
That’s all it takes; just 15 minutes a day. If this seems hard to believe it’s important to know that experience with artificial heart pumps has shown that resting the heart, even a diseased one, for just short periods can have amazing healing effects.
What’s more, clinical trials reveal that blood pressure reductions from slow breathing are cumulative. At first, they tend to be only temporary, like the effects of simple relaxation. But over the course of several weeks they build up, lasting longer each time until blood pressure remains lower around the clock. Isn’t that worth a pleasant 15 minutes a day?
Discover the quick and easy way to slow breathing for natural lower blood pressure.
see also: Breatheasy User Review