Nonpharmacologic treatment of hypertension by respiratory exercise in the home setting - Meles et al. (2004)

Key Points

  • Slow breathing reduces diastolic and systolic blood pressure

  • Slow breathing is easy to comply with and has no negative side effects

The Breathing Diabetic Summary

Here is yet another study examining the efficacy of slow breathing to reduce blood pressure.  In particular, this paper assessed if device-guided slow breathing reduced blood pressure, the quality of the breathing practice itself, and how well the patients complied with the breathing protocol.

Similar to other papers, the treatment group in this study used the RESPeRATE® device to gradually lower their breathing rate to less than 10 breaths per minute.  These patients were asked to perform a 15-minute session of slow breathing every evening for 8 weeks.  The control group did not perform a breathing protocol, but they did measure their heart rate and blood pressure at home on a daily basis.

Jumping straight into the results, the authors found that slow breathing significantly reduced diastolic and systolic blood pressure.  This significance held true when compared to their starting values and when compared to the control group.  That is, the patients significantly improved their blood pressure compared to their baseline, and they significantly improved it compared to the results of the control group. 

They also found that the patients did fairly well complying with the protocol: the participants performed 74% of the daily breathing exercises and typically made it the entire 15 minutes.  And, of course, there were no negative side effects (the glory of breathing for better health!).

To conclude, slow breathing lowers blood pressure, is fairly easy to perform and comply with, and has no negative side effects.  It almost sounds too good to be true sometimes, and it’s hard to believe that this is coming from the scientific literature.  One day slow breathing will become a standard “prescription” that accompanies other standard care…why not start today?

Abstract from Paper

Background: Device-guided breathing exercises at home have a potential to become a nonpharmacologic treatment of high blood pressure (BP). The aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of device-guided breathing exercises on both office and home BP.

Methods: A total of 79 mild hypertensive individuals, either medicated or unmedicated, with BP >140/90 mm Hg were enrolled. After a 2-week run-in phase, in both the control and treatment groups daily home blood pressure was monitored for 8 weeks. The treatment group also engaged in 15-min daily sessions with device-guided breathing exercises.

Results: A total of 47 treatment patients and 26 control subjects completed the study. In the control group both office and home BP showed small nonsignificant reductions. Device-guided breathing exercises reduced mean office BP (systolic/diastolic) by 5.5/3.6 mm Hg (P < .05 for diastolic) and mean home BP by 5.4/3.2 mm Hg (P < .001 for both). Home BP response reached a plateau after 3 weeks.

Conclusion: Our data show that device-guided breathing exercises have an antihypertensive effect that can be seen in conditions closer to daily life than the setting of the physician’s office.

Journal Reference:

Ester Meles, Cristina Giannattasio, Monica Failla, Gaetano Gentile, Anna Capra, and Giuseppe Mancia, (2004) Nonpharmacologic treatment of hypertension by respiratory exercise in the home setting, American Journal of Hypertension, 17, 370 – 374.