I happened to be reading Andrew Weil's website when I came across information on a small machine called RESPeRATE that actually helps lower blood pressure through paced breathing.
Doing some additional research I found it had been favorably reported on the NBC nightly news and had the stamp of approval of a number reliable sources. i.e. The Mayo Clinic, John Hopkins, Harvard Medical School, AARP and the Wall Street Journal. The machine was given excellent reviews. This got me interested in finding out more about this little gadget not much bigger than a CD player.
I ordered one for a family member who agreed to try it. Before passing it on I wanted to see how simple it was to use. Indeed it is the simplicity of it that is ingenious. Through a pair of earphones a melody of two distinct tones can be heard - one for inhalation and the other for exhalation. A light sensor is attached to a belt that is placed around the upper chest or abdomen. It has been said that men tend toward abdominal breathing, while women tend toward thoracic (chest) breathing. The amount of breaths per minute will be shown on the small screen and as your breathing becomes slower the melody slows down and guides you to a more stable breathing pattern.
I found after a few minutes of listening to the melodic tones my breathing had slowed down to about 6 breaths a minute. The average breathing rate for people is between 17 breaths a minute or more. This machine will teach you to breathe at a rate of 10 breaths a minute or less without straining. With this machine everyone can find the pace they are most comfortable with. No two people breathe in the same way.
In a relatively short time I found myself relaxing completely. It was enjoyable and calming. I was able to watch my breathing gently slow down while observing the numbers of breaths on the small screen in front of me.
My blood pressure is within the normal range and I put that down to my regular meditation practice. For people who don't have the time or inclination to meditate, this machine is a safe and easy method to lower blood- pressure while used in conjunction with one's medication and diet.
"Scientific evidence has been shown that paced breathing, if done effortlessly, can lower blood pressure significantly by relaxing the muscles surrounding constricted blood vessels. The problem for many people however, is that proper paced breathing requires years of training and individualized coaching."
How it works
"RESPeRATE analyzes your breathing rate and pattern, then interactively guides you through breathing exercises that reduce your breathing rate, slowly and effortlessly. Your inhalation and/or exhalation rates are prolonged according to your personal need. After each exercise, your breathing returns to its normal rate and patter; however the beneficial effect of blood pressure accumulates."
Why it works
"RESPeRATE breathing exercises reduce neural sympathetic activity and relax the muscles that surround your small blood vessels. Over time, these effects allow blood to flow more easily through your blood vessels, resulting in sustained lower blood pressure."
For clinical proof, click here
Andrew Weil, M.D., has a lot to say on the importance of monitoring your blood pressure. "Your blood pressure can very a lot depending on whether it is taken at home when you're relaxed or at a doctor's office when you may be anxious - a phenomenon called "white coat hypertension." To find out what it is normally, it is best to check it a regular intervals and at various times of the day and night when you're going about your normal activities.
The idea is to keep a log of your readings to show your doctor during your next visit. I suggest taking it three or four times a day. If you have white coat hypertension, your log over a month or so will reveal the difference between your average blood pressure at home and at the doctor's. You can also get a blood pressure reading in the doctor's office that is lower than your normal pressure, which is another good reason to monitor your pressure at home.
Since high blood pressure generally doesn't cause symptoms, monitoring it is the only way to know if you have it. If it is higher than it should be then you and your doctor will know that you need to make lifestyle changes or take medication to bring your pressure down. Lifestyle changes should always include relaxation training, such as biofeedback or breath work."
Andrew Weil, M.D.