Population-based and clinical studies show that in the UK, large numbers of people suffer with stress and high blood pressure. If left unattended, the facts are there to show that elevated blood pressure is a major risk factor for a heart attack or stroke. Yet there is evidence to support that over eighty per cent of patients with high blood pressure are in the borderline-to-moderate range and most cases of high pressure can be brought under control by changes in diet and lifestyle.
Relaxation techniques, autogenics, transcendental meditation, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation and hypnosis have all be shown to have some value in lowering blood pressure. However, just a few years ago four GP’s wrote an article in the Lancet that caught our attention. The lancet, the monthly news about all that is on-going in the medical world most-times speaks at length about the next wave of so-called ‘wonder drugs’ that will purport to be life-saving, but will certainly do little other than swell the coffers of yet another drug company.
However, from time in the midst of all of this there are other things that we find interesting. We found these four GP’s writing about hypertension and telling the world of the results of their small study that clearly demonstrated the merits of a simple breathing exercise that was able to reduce blood-pressure levels by 10%. Given that this sort of exercise costs nothing and combined with the fact that it does help with stress, we are happy to share with you the breathing exercise that Jim has been teaching to all who have been coming to his clinic (www.bnth.org) in Troon, Ayrshire since its inception in 1995.
High Blood Pressure Breathing Technique
This exercise acts as a tonic for the whole body and can be used to help reduce stress and lower blood pressure. It can be especially beneficial if done in bed at night where it can aid a restful sleep and indeed help you get to sleep by clearing the thoughts of the day from your head.
- Lay on your back on a bed or on the floor in a comfortable position.
- Place a small cushion under the back of your head.
- Raise your knees. (You don’t have to do this if you are in bed).
- Place your hands on the abdomen (tummy).
- Close your eyes.
Breathe in through the nose (if you can) and at the same time say (to yourself) the words – ‘good thought in’. Hold the breath for a second or two, then as gently and as softly as you can, breathe slowly out through your mouth silently saying words such as – ‘that’s all of my cares and worries and high blood pressure going away’. Focus as you breathe out on whatever may be troubling you.
For example if you do have high blood pressure, imagine that you have a circular hole in your tummy (just above where your hands are resting) and that as you breathe out you can see a pillar of black smoke coming out of this hole in you – and as you do you can feel your heart-rate slowing and your blood pressure lowering. If you have a pain in your tummy, imagine the same pillar of black smoke coming out of the hole in your tummy where the pain is located (and as the smoke raises, the pain going away). If you have a headache, imagine a hole in your head with black smoke coming out of the hole, local to where it hurts. In a way, the black smoke is your positive mental process in removing the (issue) health problem from your body.
Repeat the breathing in and out (and the words and thoughts) for at least five minutes. At least 30 breaths in and 30 breaths out would be good. If you have a wife, husband, partner next to you in bed, the breathing should be so quiet that the person lying next to you doesn’t know that you are going through this simple exercise.
With practice, you should be able to fall asleep if performing this exercise in bed. It has also been found to be good to help get you back to sleep if for whatever reason you awake during the night and have trouble getting back to sleep. Most-times this will be the result of your brain whirring away, full of thoughts about what has been disconcerting you during that day – and preventing you from having a good restful sleep.
We have no doubt that your GP will tell you that lifestyle advice should be offered initially and then periodically to people undergoing assessment or treatment for hypertension.
Some headlines that he may offer for consideration are:
Ascertain people’s diet and exercise patterns because a healthy diet and regular exercise can reduce blood pressure.
* Relaxation therapies (as I suggest here) can reduce blood pressure and people may wish to pursue these as part of their treatment.
- Ascertain people’s alcohol consumption and encourage a reduced intake if they drink excessively, because this can reduce blood pressure and has broader health benefits.
- Discourage excessive consumption of coffee and other caffeine-rich products.
- Encourage people to keep their dietary sodium intake low, either by reducing or substituting sodium salt, as this can reduce blood pressure.
- Do not offer calcium, magnesium or potassium supplements as a method for reducing blood pressure.
- Offer advice and help to smokers to stop smoking.
We hope that you find this little article helpful. Of course we are not doctors and if you have a problem, then you must first consult your physician, but we don’t think that he would ever disagree with the simple breathing exercise that we suggest. With a little practice we are sure that you will find it beneficial.