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One short breathing exercise may help lower blood pressure, study finds

Experts say the technique could be an easy way for consumers to boost their heart health

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder explored a new technique that may help consumers lower their blood pressure

According to their findings, a five-minute breathing exercise known as High-Resistance Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training (IMST), which requires consumers to breathe through a device that provides resistance, can lower blood pressure and benefit heart health.

“There are a lot of lifestyle strategies that we know can help maintain cardiovascular health as they age,” said researcher Daniel Craighead. “But the reality is, they take a lot of time and effort and can be expensive and hard for some people to access. IMST can be done in five minutes in your own home while you watch TV.” 

Blood pressure benefits

For the study, the researchers had 36 adults with high systolic blood pressure between the ages of 50 and 79 involved in the study. Over the course of six weeks, half of the group performed IMST regularly and the other half used a placebo breathing device. The researchers monitored the participants’ blood pressure to track any changes. 

The team learned that using the IMST device six days a week for 30 inhalations per day was associated with lower systolic blood pressure readings -- even six weeks after the participants stopped using it. Ultimately, the systolic reading dropped by as much as 9 points, which the researchers explained can be significant in terms of consumers’ long-term health

The findings were also positive because those who used the IMST device were consistent with the treatments 95% of the time. This is important because staying on top of the breathing exercise can yield the best health outcomes for consumers. 

“We have identified a novel form of therapy that lowers blood pressure without giving people pharmacological compounds and with much higher adherence than aerobic exercise,” said researcher Doug Seals. “That’s noteworthy.” 

The researchers believe that IMST can help relax the blood vessels, which is what ultimately helps lower blood pressure. Moving forward, the team hopes to make IMST devices more widely available to consumers. 

“It’s easy to do, it doesn’t take long, and we think it has a lot of potential to help a lot of people,” said Craighead. 

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