High blood pressure puts people at risk to serious health conditions such as stroke and heart disease. Among other medications, deep breathing can be used to lower blood pressure.
Did you know that one-third of U.S. adults, or approximately 75 million Americans, are experiencing constant high blood pressure? Also, a third of them are in the pre- hypertension range, which is above normal blood pressure although still not above the usual red line (140/90mmHg). It is a warning sign that person may slip into the ‘real’ hypertension in the future unless he/she changes lifestyle (most of them choose not to). What’s frightening is that only 54% are taking their conditions seriously while 20 percent are oblivious to the fact that they have high blood pressure.
Health experts recommend smoking cessation, less salt, more physical exercise and taking anti-high blood pressure medication to keep blood pressure under normal levels.
But what about the percentage of adults who don’t smoke or drink, don’t eat too much salt, goes to the gym 2 to 3 times a week and still experience hypertension?
You may not know it, but stress could be the one factor that’s killing you.
But, you already knew it, right?
Stress is at an all-time high in this instant, fast-paced world. Though studies have shown that there’s no direct correlation between stress and having persisting high blood pressure, constant stress puts you in a state where your blood pressure is elevated… constantly. Having to meet the deadline in one hour or having to spend the holidays with your in-laws is enough to cause a spike in blood pressure (don’t get me wrong, I love my in-laws, this was just an example).
Stress management then comes into play. Reducing stress will have a profound effect in lowering blood pressure and improving overall well-being. And what’s better way to reduce stress than doing deep breathing? It’s one of the oldest and the most effective techniques one can employ. Because…
- When you’re under stress, your breathing becomes abnormal (you either hyperventilate or don’t breathe at all)…
- Which sends a message to your brain that you’re under attack…
- Which increases your stress further.
Deep breathing exercises, along with the doctor’s advice, are still the best way to combat stress and hypertension. Word of warning: don’t abandon your medical routine for maintaining normal blood pressure levels and try replace it only with deep breathing sessions; it’s more like a supplemental thing that you can bring into your day-to-day life. Deep breathing provides several benefits- it’s healthy, free and only takes a few minutes. Experts suggest doing deep breathing in 10 to 15-minute sessions each day. It helps you deal with ever-growing stress and keeps blood pressure in the normal range.
Don’t forget to check out our deep breathing web application. It’s a very simple (and free) tool to guide your breathing exercises. Click that link and see yourself!
Want to learn an effective deep breathing technique? It’s called the Fourfold Breathing. It’s a pretty much classic in the collection of deep breathing exercises and helps you to calm down relatively quickly. As with most of exercises, start by taking a relaxing position, although, after you advance a bit, you can practice it anytime. After all, breathing is ‘anytime’ activity, right?
Before you can do Fourfold, you’ll have to learn how to breathe using your abdomen. Here’s how you do it:
Step 1: Breathe out and completely empty your lungs of air.
Step 2: Breathe in and fill your lower lungs with air. Use your abdomen or belly and concentrate on it when inhaling. One way to know if you’re doing it right is when, in the first phase of inhalation, only your abdomen rises and not your chest.
Step 3: Go back to step 1. Repeat as necessary.
Belly breathing takes some time to master, so slow down and just focus on the effects. When you do it regularly you’ll instinctively learn how to use only the upper area of your lungs to draw breaths. Chest breathing is the opposite of belly breathing; you use the upper lungs to draw air instead of your abdomen. This is, unfortunately, how most of us breathe and we have spoken about it on this blog.
Now, how about an exercise that combines both belly breathing and chest breathing? Here’s how you do it:
Step 1: Breathe in and focus on filling your lower lungs first by using the belly technique. Then, follow it up with the chest breathing to fill the upper lung areas.
Step 2: When you can’t inhale anymore, expel all the air from your lungs completely.
Step 3: Incorporate a steady rhythm to this breathing technique. The Fourfold Breathing is called as such because it follows a 4/4/4/4 rhythm. Counting up to 4 (approximately 4 seconds) on each step is the key to effective deep breathing. So when you inhale to fill up your lungs, count up to 4 in your mind. When your lungs are full of air you hold it in and count up to 4. When you exhale and completely empty your lungs, you count up to 4. Finally, you count up to 4 while keeping your lungs empty.