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Current research indicates performing daily deep breathing exercises can reduce blood pressure as effectively as medications. Similar to how weightlifting can strengthen our triceps or quadriceps, deep breathing exercises can strengthen the muscles of the diaphragm and other breathing muscles to reduce blood pressure and promote heart health.
As a general rule, 5 to 10 minutes of daily exercises that strengthen the diaphragm can reduce blood pressure significantly.
As we age, our body’s muscles tend to atrophy - including the muscles we use to breath. This results in an average increase in blood pressure readings over time. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, a normal blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 mmHg. Currently, healthcare physicians typically diagnose patients with high blood pressure if their average blood pressure reading is 130/80 mmHg or higher.
However, this effect can be countered by engaging our diaphragm muscles via deep breathing exercises. Current research indicates performing 30 breaths per day for six weeks reduces systolic blood pressure by 9 mmHg. These reductions are similar to the results seen with common antihypertensive medications, which lead to about a 9 mmHg decrease in systolic blood pressure as well.
Deep breathing exercises can reduce risk of general cardiovascular illnesses. A 10 mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure correlated to a 35% decrease in risk of stroke and 25% decrease in risk of heart disease.
Deep breathing exercises can serve as a preventative measure for high blood pressure as well. By implementing strength training for our respiratory muscles,
Also, blood pressure reductions as a result of deep breathing exercises are similar to expected results from aerobic exercises, such as walking, cycling, or running. Thus, these deep breathing exercises can prove beneficial for those who are unable to perform traditional aerobic exercises (due to pain or other factors).
However, the deep breathing exercise technique is not intended to replace exercise, or medications for those individuals with hypertension who are at risk of myocardial infarction or stroke. Rather, it can supplement these therapeutic approaches to reduce blood pressure much more drastically, and may help individuals with high blood pressure to gradually reduce their required intake / wean off of hypertension medications.
Deep breathing exercises, or inspiratory muscle strength training, increase endothelial function by approximately 45%. These endothelial cells line our blood vessels and encourage the production of nitric oxide, which protects our heart. Nitric oxide assists in widening our blood vessels, which promotes blood flow and prevents plaque buildup in our arteries.
Researchers have found that blood pressure may modulate blood flow to the bones and bone marrow, which can impact the bone quality and density. High blood pressure is associated with a decrease in blood flow to the bones, which leads to a reduction in calcium metabolism, loss in bone-mineral density, and ultimately osteoporosis. Therefore, it is essential to maintain a reduced blood pressure to ensure healthy bones and bone marrow.