Lungs and blood pressure

Lungs and blood pressure (Pic courtesy: POwerbreatheUK)&nbsp

Key Highlights

  • Hypertension or high BP is a silent killer and creates havoc with cardiovascular health.
  • The good news is that a technique meant to help patients strengthen lungs is proving helpful in lowering BP.
  • A study has found that all you need to give it is 5 minutes of breathing exercise on a hand-held device.

Using a device that strengthens breathing muscles for just five minutes a day may help lower blood pressure, according to a small study cited in the Harvard Heart Letter. 

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, medics and patients alike have been focussing on ways to help people develop better breathing capacity. The pandemic brought in respiratory distress which turned fatal for many and even among those who recovered, long covid syndrome left behind weaker heart and lung muscles.

The Harvard Heart Letter says that researchers have found that a technique called Inspiratory muscle strength training (IMST) can help patients build back strength. IMST uses a small handheld device that provides resistance as you inhale and exhale. According to the Harvard Heart Letter, the IMST device – originally developed for people with serious lung conditions to strengthen their breathing muscles – is proving helpful to people with hypertension (high blood pressure) who are struggling to keep their blood pressure within normal limits.

Study at the University of Colorado at Boulder:
This study shows that a breathing exercise known as Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training can reduce blood pressure in weeks, with benefits on par with daily exercise or medication. 

Working out just five minutes daily via a practice described as “strength training for your breathing muscles” lowers blood pressure and improves some measures of vascular health as well as, or even more than, aerobic exercise or medication, new CU Boulder research shows. 

  1. Researchers tested the device on 36 older adults with elevated blood pressure. 
  2. Half did high-resistance IMST for five minutes, six days a week.
  3. The rest half others did a low-resistance breathing program for comparison.
  4. After six weeks, systolic blood pressure (the first number in a reading) dropped by an average of nine points among those who did the treatment. 
  5. Even six weeks after they quit doing IMST, the IMST group maintained most of that improvement.

How is this modern-day Pranayam – breathing exercise helpful?

This benefit appeared to stem from improvements in blood vessel function and increases in nitric oxide, a molecule that helps widen arteries, reports the Harvard newsletter. Breathing with your diaphragm brings more oxygen into the body, nourishing the brain and the muscles.

According to the authors of the study, IMST may offer benefits similar to exercise but in far less time. The report also warns that although the training appears to be safe, people should consult a doctor before trying the device. The findings appeared on June 29, 2021, in the Journal of the American Heart Association.


Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purpose only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.