Many things in our everyday life cause us to speed up but not much to slow down. So it’s no wonder that high blood pressure is on the rise with one in four New Zealanders having high blood pressure >140 mmHg (hypertensive). Physiologically, blood pressure increases either when the muscles layers surrounding a blood vessel tighten and/or when plaque builds up inside the vessel. Both, are very effective at reducing blood flow and increasing blood pressure.
The dangers of high blood pressure are many…. the heart has to work much harder which can damage it (heart disease), reduced blood flow to tissues (foggy brain and memory loss), plaque can break off and clog blood vessels causing aneurysm or stroke, and the increased pressure over time will damage other organs primarily eyes and kidneys.
Interestingly, for many doctors life style changes still rank highly to manage blood pressure particularly in the 140-160mmHg segment with no other illnesses present. Blood pressure medication is not advised to replace a return to a healthier lifestyle that includes daily exercise, a diet of wholesome vegetables and fruit, and a reduction in the consumption of processed food with lots of sugar/carbohydrates, chemical additives, as well as stimulants (like coffee) and drugs (like alcohol).
The good news for anyone looking for a non-drug solution that does not require you to leave the chair, is that breathing exercises are a fail-safe way to lower blood pressure. Many studies are available that show without a doubt that the right breathing exercises deliver (e.g. Grossman et al. 2001, Schein et al. 2001, Meles et al. 2004, Sharma et al. 2011).
The reason why the right breathing exercises work so well are:
- shifting to nasal breathing stimulates production and uptake of nitric oxide which dilates blood vessels
- CO2 levels increase which relaxes smooth muscle cells dilating blood vessels
- the parasympathetic nervous system is activates which adds its own dose of relaxing hormones
- pH changes making it less likely for calcium to be turned into plaque deposits and even possible to reverse the process (this has not been studied)
Call your breathing coach today to discuss your options! Breathe right and live better!