Did you know? Deep breathing exercises at a respiratory rate of 6 or 10 breaths per minute can help with hypertension?
Also referred to as diaphragmatic deep breathing (DDB), this exercise causes our diaphragm to contract. When that happens, we minimise the frequency of respiration, increase the volume of inspiration and expiration which in turn maximize the amount of oxygen that enters the bloodstream.
DDB triggers pulmonary-cardiac mechanoreceptors, restraining sympathetic nerve activity while activating chemoreflexes, resulting in arteriolar dilation. This process heightens parasympathetic activity and baroreflex sensitivity, thereby lowering both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
In a study, patients with hypertension experienced an average decrease of 8.6 mmHg in SBP and 4.9 mmHg in DBP after practicing slow, deep breathing for two minutes. Over several weeks, consistent practice of this breathing technique has shown to amplify baroreflex sensitivity and significantly increase heart rate variability (HRV) in individuals with prehypertension and hypertension. During relaxation, HRV, which signifies the fluctuation in time intervals between heartbeats, rises. This rise in HRV correlates with reduced SBP and better psychological well-being.
Additionally, diaphragmatic deep breathing offers potential psychological benefits for hypertensive or prehypertensive adults by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. This type of breathing, particularly when exhaling more slowly, deeply, and for longer durations, can diminish the basal sympathetic tone, promoting a sense of calm and relaxation.
Studies have indicated that DDB may stimulate the vagal nerve, aiding emotion regulation in healthy adults and reducing symptoms of anxiety in relaxation training programs.
How to get started with deep breathing?
A good method for someone who is not familiar with deep breathing is the equal breathing method. This method involves inhaling through the nose for a count of four, and exhaling with a count of four. The length of inhaling and exhaling can be gradually increased, up a counts of eight.
Another method, known as guided visualisation, requires uses to hold on to where users can add guided imagery as they practice deep breathing. The imagery could be of a calm place such as the beach or the forest. This method allows users to add positive and relaxing components to the deep breathing exercises.
Deep breathing exercises are easy to do, and get easier with practices.
So the next time you feel stressed, and are worried about your blood pressure spiking, stop and take a few slow and deep breaths!
About Dr Adrian Mondry
Dr Adrian Mondry is a Hypertension Specialist accredited by the German Hypertension League in Singapore. He was previously a senior consultant in the department of medicine at the National University Hospital and Ng Teng Fong General Hospital (NTFGH), Dr Mondry has more than 30 years of experience in the field of internal medicine.
Dr Adrian Mondry is recognised for his leadership and contributions in establishing the dedicated hypertension clinic within the National University Health System and fast-track deep vein thrombosis service at NTFGH.
Dr Adrian Mondry is fluent in English, German and French.
About Kaizen Medical
Kaizen Medical is located at Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre, Suite 11-57.
At Kaizen, we provide in depth health care to patients with multi-organs diseases; tackling undifferentiated presentations that cannot be easily assigned to a single organ.