Doing This for 5 Minutes Lowers Blood Pressure as Well as Medicine, New Study Says

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a serious chronic condition that can trigger a wide…

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a serious chronic condition that can trigger a wide range of consequences. Some of these—heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, and dementia, for example—can be life-threatening, while other subtle complications can chip away at your everyday quality of life.

That’s why it’s important to get your blood pressure under control if you notice your numbers are high, whether through medication or lifestyle changes. Now, a new study is pointing out the benefits of one daily habit that researchers say works as well as these popular interventions to reduce high blood pressure. Read on to learn how you can try it at home, and how it could benefit you even if your blood pressure is within a healthy range.

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When it comes to treating high blood pressure, there are several ways to improve your numbers. The Mayo Clinic notes that maintaining a healthy weight, lowering your salt intake, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, limiting your alcohol intake, sleeping well, and reducing stress are all ways to improve your blood pressure without medication.

However, for some people, hypertension medication may still be necessary. Depending on your age and other factors, you may be prescribed diuretics, calcium channel blockers, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, or another class of medication, says the American Heart Association (AHA).

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A new study says there’s something else you can do to improve hypertension with a success rate similar to medication or exercise: using a resistance-breathing training device called PowerBreathe.

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The concept is simple: just as weightlifting can strengthen your biceps, training your breathing muscles can improve their performance. “The muscles we use to breathe atrophy, just like the rest of our muscles tend to do as we get older,” researcher Daniel Craighead, an integrative physiologist at the University of Colorado Boulder, explained to NPR.

However, the researchers observed that doing 30 breaths per day for six weeks lowered systolic blood pressure by 9 mmHg (millimeters of mercury), making it comparable to “the type of reduction you see with a blood pressure drug,” Michael Joyner, MD, a physician at the Mayo Clinic, told NPR. The benefits were also roughly comparable to those you might see through consistent aerobic exercise, the researchers noted.

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A 9 mmHg drop in systolic blood pressure can have a major ripple effect on your overall health and mortality risk. That’s because it correlates roughly with a 35 percent drop in your risk of stroke and a 25 percent drop in the risk of heart disease, NPR reports.

The device is not intended as a replacement for medication recommended by your doctor, or a consistent exercise regimen, and patients are likely to see the best results of a resistance-breathing routine when it’s used in conjunction with these other interventions. However, Joyner wrote in a 2021 editorial for the AHA that “it could be beneficial for people who are unable to do traditional aerobic exercise.” He added that, “taking a deep, resisted breath offers a new and unconventional way to generate the benefits of exercise and physical activity.”

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Even if you do not suffer from high blood pressure, you may still benefit from a resistance-breathing routine as a preventative measure. “We were surprised to see how ubiquitously effective IMST is at lowering blood pressure,” Craighead told NPR, referring to inspiratory muscle strength training. “We saw robust effects,” he added, noting that young and middle-age individuals improved not only their blood pressure, but also their exercise endurance. In fact, those who completed a six week-course of the five-minute routine saw a 12 percent increase in exercise tolerance.

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Speak with your doctor to learn whether breath-resistance training might be right for you, and to find out more about how to keep your blood pressure within a healthy range.