Practicing mindfulness with paced breathing could lower blood pressure

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Researchers say the calming habit can help consumers reduce stress levels

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many consumers are looking for ways to lower their stress levels, and recent studies have highlighted how beneficial mindfulness practices like meditation can be for consumers’ mental health

Now, researchers from Florida Atlantic University are beginning to peel back the layers of how deep breathing can benefit consumers’ physical health. Though recent studies have explored how a meditation practice can boost heart health, they plan to launch a study that could potentially change how patients with high blood pressure are evaluated and treated by medical professionals. 

“This pilot randomized 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 researcher Dr. Charles H. Hennekens.

“Achieving sustained reductions in blood pressure of four to five millimeters of mercury decreases risk of stroke by 42 percent and heart attacks by about 17 percent; so positive findings would have important clinical and policy implications.” 

Reducing stress with mindful breathing

The researchers explained that there is a clear link between high blood pressure and stress -- two conditions that many consumers deal with. Especially in the midst of the pandemic, stress levels are at an all-time high, and it’s important for consumers to know about ways to incorporate healthy, mindful habits into their daily routines that could benefit both their physical and mental health. 

With this forthcoming study, the researchers are looking at bodily systems and the simple ways that they can be altered to consumers’ advantage. The team notes that following a paced breathing practice typically cuts the number of breaths per minute in half, which helps consumers feel more grounded and less stressed. 

“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 researcher Dr. Suzanne LeBlang. 

“Now more than ever, Americans and people all over the world are under increased stress, which may adversely affect their health and well-being,” added researcher Barbara Schmidt. “We know that mindfulness decreases stress and I am cautiously optimistic that mindfulness with paced breathing will produce sustained lowering of blood pressure.” 

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