• Dmitri Konash

Can you lower blood pressure with 478 breathing?


478 breathing exercise for high blood pressure
4-7-8 breathing to lower blood pressure. Image by Gerd Altman from Pixabay

Inhale, hold, exhale. Will it replace meds?


What can be easier than doing a 2 minute breathing exercise to gain health benefits? No equipment, no meds, no cost. Inhale for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds, exhale for 8 seconds. Repeat. But does breathing exercise for high blood pressure really work? 478 breathing exercise has been proven effective for lowering anxiety and better sleep. How about hypertension?

There is plenty of scientific evidence which proves that slow breathing exercises, which 4-7-8 breathing belongs to, actually do have relaxation and healing effects [1]. Based on my personal experience with using 4-7-8 breathing to lower blood pressure and feedback from viewers who tried this exercise on my YouTube channel it also works well for hypertension.

This post explains what is breathing exercise for high BP, how blood pressure breathing exercise works, how to do it and which apps help to perform it.


What is 478 breathing exercise?


The 4-7-8 breathing technique is a set of specific breathing intervals developed by Dr. Andrew Weil. It’s based on an ancient contemplative practice called pranayama, which helps practitioners to use breathing to stimulate their autonomic nervous system.

Slow rhythmic breathing is a part of meditation and yoga practices, which promote relaxation. It can actually slow your heart rate and lower anxiety.

Dr. Andrew Weil is the founder and director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. According to Dr Weil the 4-7-8 breathing technique helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the ‘rest and digest’ behaviour.

It helps with the following:

  • reducing anxiety

  • falling asleep faster

  • lowering high blood pressure

4-7-8 breathing exercise can be done together with the following contemplative practices:

  • acupressure for high blood pressure

  • exercises for high blood pressure

  • meditation to lower blood pressure

  • nature sounds to lower blood pressure

  • relaxation music for high blood pressure

  • qigong for high blood pressure

  • yoga for high blood pressure

4-7-8 breathing confidently responds to the question what type of breathing lowers blood pressure.


How to perform 4-7-8 breathing exercise


Find a comfortable place where no one can disturb you. Lie down if you are practicing this breathing technique to fall asleep faster. If you are sitting, keep a straight posture. Place hands on your knees.

Do the following steps.

  1. Inhale for 4 seconds through your nose. Try to make your inhale a quiet one.

  2. Hold your breath for 7 seconds.

  3. Exhale through pursed lips for 8 seconds.

  4. Repeat this pattern at least 4 times.



Some people used to fast and shallow breathing may have a challenge when they learn 4-7-8 breathing exercises. In this case it makes sense to start from a shorter cycle, i.e. 2-3-4 and gradually build to the full 4-7-8 experience. Capacity to breathe slower and hold your breath for longer is a positive sign indicating better health.


7 second breath holding is the most important part of this exercise. Most people can easily hold breath for 7 seconds but some may feel lightheaded. This happens because of temporary oxygen depletion and once you start breathing normally this effect disappears. At the same time you should NOT try this exercise while driving.

To gain benefits from the 4-7-8 breathing technique use it at least twice daily. Start from repeating this breathing pattern at least 4 times during one exercise and build to 8 times after a few days. Then continue to practice for as many times as you feel comfortable. The longer and more frequently you use this technique, the more effective it becomes.


How the 4-7-8 breathing to lower blood pressure works

Studies on contemplative practice, which slow breathing is a part of, have reported many positive effects on physical and mental health as well as cognition [1].

Breathing exercises are designed to bring the body into a state of relaxation. This happens because the mind focuses on breathing. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for the rest and digest behavior.

Relaxation practices help bring the body into balance and regulate the fight-or-flight response when we are stressed. This is very helpful if you have sleep problems or hypertension due to anxiety. Thoughts and concerns can keep us from being able to sleep well and our blood pressure elevated. When we are relaxed, our blood vessels are dilated which helps to lower blood pressure.

Also specific breathing intervals that involve holding the breath deplete the oxygen in the blood and raise carbon dioxide concentration temporarily. This forces the body to absorb more oxygen during the inhale interval. This process can give your organs and tissues a much-needed oxygen boost.

A review article [2] calls out some of the potential health benefits of slow breathing exercises. These possible benefits include:

  • reduced anxiety

  • lowering stress

  • reducing high blood pressure

Another study [3] demonstrated that 6 weeks of practicing slow breathing, which 4-7-8 breathing technique is a part of, may have a positive effect on heart rate variability which is an objective measurement of stress and anxiety.

Which apps can help to perform 4-7-8 breathing?


Even if you are comfortable with performing this breathing exercise just counting seconds in your head, you may consider using a mobile app from Apple AppStore or Google Play. Breathing apps to lower blood pressure have the following benefits:

  • it is easier to stay focussed following a breathing circle on-screen

  • breathing apps usually include a reminder to encourage regular use

  • breathing apps often include additional tools to lower anxiety and BP

One example is a super popular relaxation app Calm, available from Apple AppStore and Google Play. Breathing exercises, including 4-7-8 breathing technique, is just one part of the app. It includes many other natural tools for relaxation, i.e. meditations and sleep stories.

Another example is the Breathe app. The app has many positive reviews. It includes a reminder to use it regularly during the day.


BreathNow is a breathing app for high blood pressure. In addition to breathing exercises it includes instructional videos with relaxation techniques: meditation, yoga, music, acupressure etc. The unique feature of BreathNow is the ability to fine tune breathing intervals and use the heart rate monitor within the app to measure what intervals work best for you.





BreathNow breathing app for high blood pressure is based on years of my personal experience of fighting and winning against anxiety and high blood pressure with natural tools. Please try it and let me know how it works for you.


Summary

  • 4-7-8 breathing exercise is a powerful breathing exercise which helps to lower anxiety and high blood pressure and also helps to fall asleep faster

  • As you master this technique target to perform 8 breathing cycles during one exercise and repeat it 2-3 times every day

  • Best breathing app to lower blood pressure transform breathing exercises into a daily habit and raise their efficiency by increasing the focus of the brain

References:

  1. Breath of Life: The Respiratory Vagal Stimulation Model of Contemplative Activity, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

  2. Stress management techniques: evidence-based procedures that reduce stress and promote health, Psychology, Health Science Journal

  3. Effect of short-term practice of pranayamic breathing exercises on cognition, anxiety, general well being and heart rate variability, Journal of the Indian Medical Association

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