High blood pressure can increase a person’s risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart disease. However, daily breathing exercises can lower blood pressure and reduce these risks.

Blood pressure is the amount of pressure that blood flow puts on the walls of a person’s arteries. If someone’s blood pressure is consistently high, it can damage other organs, including the heart, kidneys, brain, and eyes.

Many people use breathing exercises to control panic attacks or reduce feelings of anxiety. A 2023 scoping review concluded that breathing exercises could also help lower blood pressure.

This article looks into the different breathing exercises people can do to lower their blood pressure and how long the effects might last.

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Blood pressure tests measure two types of blood pressure: systolic (SBP) and diastolic (DBP). SBP measures the pressure as a person’s heart beats, while DBP measures the pressure as the heart rests. Doctors measure both types in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).

Breathing exercises usually concentrate on slowing the number of breaths a person takes each minute.

The 2023 scoping review suggests that only 2 minutes of slow and deep breathing could lower the SBP of hypertensive individuals by 8.6 mm Hg and their DBP by 4.9 mm Hg.

Breathing exercises are safe for most people and simple to do. The American Lung Association explains that breathing exercises can make a person’s lungs work more efficiently.

There are multiple types of breathing exercises a person can learn when they are trying to lower their blood pressure.

Diaphragmatic, or belly breathing, involves someone consciously slowing their breathing while allowing their belly to expand.

To practice belly breathing, a person can follow these instructions:

  1. Sit down and place one hand on the chest and the other on the belly.
  2. Breathe in slowly through the nose, keeping the mouth closed. While breathing in, allow the belly to fill with air, but keep the chest still.
  3. Breathe out slowly through the mouth. Try to make the out-breath, or exhalation, longer than the in-breath, or inhalation.

Sama vritti pranayama, or box breathing, is a yoga breathing technique. It involves taking deep, rhythmic, controlled breaths.

Follow these steps to practice box breathing:

  1. Sit down comfortably and slowly exhale through the mouth.
  2. Close the mouth, and breathe in slowly for a count of four.
  3. Pause, and slowly count to four again while holding the breath.
  4. Exhale through the mouth, counting to four again, at the same speed as before.

The idea here is that each step takes the same amount of time, with the four steps making a box shape diagrammatically. With practice, people can increase the count, making sure to keep each step the same length.

Another rhythmic breathing technique, 4–7–8, is one that needs practice to perfect. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Sit down comfortably and slowly breathe out through the mouth.
  2. Close the mouth and breathe in slowly for 4 seconds.
  3. Pause, and hold the breath for 7 seconds.
  4. Purse the lips and forcefully exhale through the mouth for 8 seconds.

The key thing to remember here is the ratio between the breaths. If a person feels lightheaded or dizzy while practicing this technique, they can shorten the time.

Learn more about the 4–7–8 breathing technique here.

Some people prefer to use technology to help them practice their breathing exercises. A 2019 article suggests that people who used a device called RESPeRATE regularly for 15 minutes a day experienced a reduction in blood pressure.

RESPeRATE is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved device that uses a sensor to record a person’s breathing pattern and creates sounds as a guide for inhaling and exhaling.

The idea is that the individual synchronizes their breathing with the sounds from the device to increase their exhalation rate slowly and slow their breathing.

According to the 2023 scoping review, there is strong evidence that breathing exercises lower a person’s blood pressure. They highlight that 17 out of 20 studies recorded a decrease in SBP and DBP.

They suggest that regular, slow, and deep breathing can significantly lower blood pressure in hypertensive individuals over 12 weeks.

A 2019 study investigating breath-holding and its effect on blood pressure claim that breath-holding can raise a person’s blood pressure.

The study suggests that rhythmic breath-holding does not affect a person’s blood pressure in the same way as slow-breathing exercises.

If a person wishes to lower their blood pressure, slow breathing techniques may be more effective.

Doctors may prescribe medications to lower a person’s blood pressure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), making some lifestyle changes can also help. They recommend:

Breathing exercises can help lower a person’s blood pressure. They are simple to perform, and most people see favorable results if they practice regularly.

Most breathing exercises involve consciously slowing the breathing rate and taking deeper breaths.