Mindfulness With Paced Breathing Helps Lower Blood Pressure

Mindfulness With Paced Breathing Helps Lower Blood Pressure

by Dr. Meenakshy Varier on Sep 10 2020 3:08 PM
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  • Elevated blood pressure is an important, yet one of the most modifiable risk factor to reduce stroke and heart attacks
  • Mindfulness with paced breathing helps to reduce elevated blood pressure levels
  • Paced breathing is deep diaphragmatic breathing with typical breath rates that equal 5–7 breaths per minute
Mindfulness that uses the interaction between body and mind is found to have a profound impact on reducing blood pressure or hypertension when combined with paced breathing.
Mindfulness is a quality of being present at the moment, and being completely aware and engaged with the task at hand, rather than having interpretations or being judgemental.

High blood pressure affects more than 100 million Americans, according to the American Stroke Association (ASA) and the American Heart Association (AHA). Heart attacks and strokes account for 40% of the total mortality that kills more than 800,000 people in the U.S. each year, and more than 17 million people worldwide.

High blood pressure is a major risk for premature morbidities like stroke and even mortality. Stroke is the fifth in all-cause of mortality in the U.S., which kills nearly 133,000 people annually, and more than 11% of the population worldwide. Studies have shown that small but sustained blood pressure reductions can reduce the risk of stroke and heart attacks. Blood pressure can be controlled by engaging in therapeutic lifestyle changes with weight loss, salt reduction, and adjunctive drug therapies.

Mindfulness reduces stress significantly. When combined with paced breathing, which is a deep and diaphragmatic breathing, it helps lower elevated blood pressure.

As opposed to normal breathing, which has 12-15 breaths per minute, mindful breathing is at a much slower rate. It entails just five to seven breaths per minute. It helps to significantly reduce stress.

One reason for the beneficial effect of paced breathing could be the stimulation of the vagus and parasympathetic nervous system. This alters the function of the nerve cells in specific areas of the brain and reduces stress chemicals. This triggers vascular relaxation, which may be the reason for lowering blood pressure.

The research from the Florida Atlantic University's Schmidt College of Medicine and collaborators is published in the journal Medical Hypotheses.

"One of the most plausible mechanisms is that paced breathing stimulates the vagus nerve and parasympathetic nervous system, which reduce stress chemicals in the brain and increase vascular relaxation that may lead to lowering of blood pressure," said Suzanne LeBlang, M.D., a neuroradiologist, second and corresponding author, and an affiliate associate professor in FAU's Schmidt College of Medicine.

"This randomized pilot trial might lead to further randomized trials of intermediate markers such as inhibition of progression of carotid intimal thickening or coronary artery atherosclerosis, and subsequently, a large scale trial to reduce stroke and heart attacks,"said Charles H. Hennekens, M.D., Dr.PH, senior author, and senior academic advisor in FAU's Schmidt College of Medicine.

If the reductions in blood pressure of 4 to 5 millimeters of mercury is sustaibed, it can decrease the risk of stroke by 42 percent and heart attacks by about 17 percent.

People all over the world are under increased duress, especially due to the current pandemic crisis. This adversely affects their health and well-being. Mindfulness decreases stress, and when combined with paced breathing, it will help lower blood pressure.