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Breath training may help lower blood pressure by serving as a ‘dumbbell for the diaphragm’: new study


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Strength training isn’t just for the biceps.

It can also provide support to the muscles that help us breathe to reduce blood pressure.

A daily dose for six weeks of high resistance inspiratory muscle strength training (IMST) reduced systolic blood pressure by an average of nine millimeters of mercury, according to a new study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

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“In our research, we found that high-resistance inspiratory muscle strength training, consisting of 30 resistant inhalations per day using a portable device, lowered systolic blood pressure by an average of 9 mmHg,” said said lead author Dr. Daniel Harrison Craighead.

He is an Assistant Research Professor of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The researchers wanted to apply the same concept of strength training used to keep muscles healthy to muscles that help us breathe in, like our diaphragm.
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“It’s important,” Craighead said, “because reducing blood pressure to this level would reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and other health problems associated with high blood pressure.” »

Since muscles weaken over time, strength training is often used to keep body muscles healthy.

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Craighead, however, wanted to apply this same concept to muscles that help us breathe in, like the diaphragm.

He and other researchers recruited healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 82 to use a device called PowerBreathe, which provides resistance training for the muscles that help us breathe in. (There are several such devices on the market.)

Study participants were asked to use the device for five minutes a day for six weeks.

"Just as you would use a heavier dumbbell as your bicep strength improves, you can increase the resistance of the breathing apparatus as your breathing strength improves."

“Just as you would use a heavier dumbbell as your bicep strength improves, you can increase the resistance of the breathing apparatus as your breathing strength improves. »
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It’s often called “the dumbbell for your diaphragm” because it creates resistance when we breathe, according to the PowerBreathe website.

“Just as you would use a heavier dumbbell as your biceps strength improves, you can increase the resistance of the breathing apparatus as your breathing strength improves,” the website added.

The new study found that performing 30 breaths a day for six weeks lowered systolic blood pressure by about 9 millimeters of mercury, which is similar to the reduction achieved by conventional aerobic exercise such as walking, running or jogging. bike.

The lead author of a new study said the “breathing protocol only takes 5-10 minutes a day, so hopefully it will be easy for people to stick to.”

“Plus, the protocol only takes 5-10 minutes a day, so hopefully it will be easy for people to join,” Craighead told Fox News Digital.

“This can easily be done by doing things like watching TV or waiting for your coffee to brew. »

Lowering systolic blood pressure by 10 mm Hg reduces the risk of stroke by around 35% and that of cardiac events by around 25% at age 65, according to a report by the British Medical Journal.

What is high blood pressure?

The American Heart Association defines normal blood pressure as less than 120/80 mm Hg.

The top number is systolic blood pressure, which is the pressure inside the artery when the heart contracts and pumps blood throughout the body.

A nurse measures a patient's blood pressure. "A patient is at risk for high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, if the systolic blood pressure readings are consistently between 120 and 129, which is called high blood pressure," said a medical professional.

A nurse measures a patient’s blood pressure. “A patient is at risk for high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, if systolic blood pressure readings are consistently between 120 and 129, which is called high blood pressure,” said one. healthcare professional.
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The lower number is diastolic blood pressure, or the artery pressure when the heart is at rest and filling with blood, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

A patient is at risk for high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, if systolic blood pressure readings are consistently between 120 and 129, which is called high blood pressure.

People who are diagnosed with stage 1 hypertension have systolic blood pressure readings that constantly vary from 130 to 139 mm Hg or a diastolic reading that varies from 80 to 89 mm Hg.

“High blood pressure is a common problem and contributes to strokes, heart failure, kidney failure and various other cardiovascular complications. »

When people are diagnosed at this stage, lifestyle changes are often recommended before starting any medication.

“High blood pressure is a common problem and contributes to strokes, heart failure, kidney failure and various other cardiovascular complications,” said Dr. Deepak L. Bhatt, professor of medicine at the faculty. of Medicine from Harvard, at Fox News Digital.

“Lifestyle measures, such as restricting salt intake and weight loss, can help lower blood pressure, although many people with high blood pressure eventually need medication,” Bhatt added.

"Many people with high blood pressure end up needing medication," said a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

“Many people with high blood pressure end up needing medication,” said a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
(iStock, file)

He is also Executive Director of Interventional Cardiovascular Programs at Brigham and Women’s Hospital Heart & Vascular Center in Boston.

Stage 2 hypertension occurs when systolic blood pressure readings are consistently at 140/90 mm Hg or higher, according to the American Heart Association.

“Potentially, breathing training, as has been done in this [new] study, could help strengthen the muscles involved in breathing and additionally lower blood pressure,” Bhatt said.

“It seems like a safe approach,” he added, “although further study is needed to determine how effective it may be and who might be ideal candidates. »

People taking blood pressure medications, Bhatt said, shouldn’t stop those medications without first consulting their doctor.

“We need to do much longer studies to confirm that we actually see a lower rate of blood pressure-related conditions in people who take this training,” said the lead author of a new study.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a magic bullet per se,” Craighead of the University of Colorado at Boulder told Fox News Digital about IMST, the respiratory muscle strength training process.

“A reduction in systolic blood pressure will not be enough to completely control blood pressure in people with more than mild hypertension,” he said.

“However, so far we have seen it is effective in people who are already taking antihypertensive medication – so it could be a good ‘add-on’ therapy to medication. »

He also noted that it has additional benefits over conventional exercise “because breathing training is so different from running or walking – but that still needs to be confirmed with further research.”

How does breath training work?

Endothelial cells line the lining of blood vessels, which in turn help produce a key compound that protects the heart called nitric oxide, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Nitric oxide widens blood vessels, which promotes healthy blood flow.

The study found that six weeks of inspiratory muscle strength training increased endothelial function by approximately 45%.

Study limitations

Craighead noted that its current study has some limitations, including that it only tested participants for six weeks.

“We need to do much longer studies to confirm that we are actually seeing a lower rate of blood pressure-associated conditions in people who take this training,” he told Fox News Digital.

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He also noted that most of the participants in his study were non-Hispanic white adults, so it’s difficult to generalize the research to a diverse population of people.

“We need to learn how effective this breathing training is when people train on their own, without the supervision of a researcher. »

All of the research was done in a controlled lab environment, Craighead said, so “we need to know how effective this breathing training is when people train on their own, without the supervision of a researcher.”

Future research needed

He hopes, however, that the study results will inspire more research into high-resistance inspiratory muscle strength training.

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“If the health benefits are confirmed in larger trials with longer treatment times, I can see this becoming another important tool in the toolbox to help control blood pressure,” Craighead added.

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“I think it’s really promising because it’s so time-efficient – ​​and so far it’s been shown to be safe in the groups studied. »

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