High blood pressure: Lifestyle changes to reduce reading

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More than a third of adults in the UK are believed to have high blood pressure, yet thousands are unaware they have the condition. The condition is a precursor for a number of life-threatening conditions, such as stroke and heart attack. Fortunately, certain modifiable lifestyle factors can help reverse the condition. One technique, that doesn’t cost a penny, has been shown to lower hypertension.

High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of death around the world.

This is because the pressure in the arteries can make it difficult for the heart to pump blood, putting strain on the vital organ.

Deep abdominal breathing could help reverse the condition over a period of weeks, however.

Harvard Health explains: “Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange – that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide.

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“Not surprisingly, it can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilise blood pressure.”

Harvard Health explains that taking diet breaths helps the nerve activity that controls the fight or flight response to slow down.

Invoking relaxation through the practice of breathing techniques can also help the muscles relax and the blood vessels expand.

Slow deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system which in turn dilates the blood vessels and reduce overall blood pressure.

As the heart rate drops, the breathing slows, allowing the body to focus on other functions like digestion.

According to a Japanese study of 20,000 individuals with hypertension and normal blood pressure, people can reduce their systolic blood pressure by taking six deep breaths within a 30 second period.

Doctor Herbert Benson, director emeritus of the Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine, who did not partake in the study, said: “I encourage my patients to try non-drug treatment to lower blood pressure, especially those who can’t tolerate medications.

For this, you have to sit in a quiet room with your eyes closed. Relax the muscles and silently repeat a word, phrase, sound, or short prayer of your choosing over and over.

He recommends practising the relaxation response twice a day for around 10 to 20 minutes.

A recent study found that practising a breathing workout for just five minutes was as effective at lowering blood pressure as exercise.

The researchers said that ‘strength training for breathing muscles’ could hold promise for a host of health benefits.

The technique works by inhaling vigorously through a hand-held device that provides resistance.

Results from the study showed that patients who practised the technique saw their systolic blood pressure drop by nine points after a period of six weeks.

The lead author of the study, Daniel Craighead, noted: “There are a lot of lifestyle strategies that we know can help people maintain cardiovascular health as they age.

“But the reality is, they take a lot of time and effort and can be expensive and hard for some people to access.

“High-resistance inspiratory Muscle Strength Training (IMST) can be done in five minutes in your own home while you watch TV.”

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