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  • Writer's pictureDmitri Konash

Can You Lower & Measure Blood Pressure on iPhone with HRV?


Can You Lower & Measure Blood Pressure on iPhone?

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a widespread health concern that can lead to serious cardiovascular complications if left unmanaged. There is growing evidence that incorporating breathing exercises can help naturally lower blood pressure. In this blog post, we will explore how breathing exercises can help you to manage blood pressure, how Heart Rate Variability (HRV) can objectively track your progress on a smartphone and how you can immediately benefit from this technology with ZERO cost.


What does science say about breathing exercises and blood pressure?


Breathing exercises have gained recognition as a non-pharmacological approach to manage hypertension. These exercises focus on controlled and deep breathing techniques that activate the body's relaxation response, promoting calmness and reducing stress.


As explained in these scientific papers [1], [3], [4], slow guided breathing engages our parasympathetic nervous system, which activates ‘rest and digest’ response and helps us to relax.


One example of a slow breathing exercise which helps to lower blood pressure is so called 4-6 breathing technique:

- Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit or lie down.

- Inhale for a count of 4 seconds and exhale for a count of 6 seconds, creating a smooth and continuous flow of breath.

- Inhale through your nose, expand your diaphragm and push your abdomen out while keeping your chest relatively still.

- Exhale slowly through your mouth, allowing your abdomen to contract.

- Aim for a relaxed and steady breathing rhythm, repeating this process for several minutes.


How do breathing exercises lower blood pressure?


Breathing exercises have several beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system:


1. Stress Reduction: Deep, controlled breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body's relaxation response. This counteracts the effects of the sympathetic nervous system, known as the "fight or flight" response, leading to reduced stress and a decrease in blood pressure. Blood pressure gets lower because the parasympathetic nervous system helps to dilate blood vessels and this improves blood flow.


2. Improved Circulation: Deep breathing enhances the oxygen supply to the body's organs and tissues, including the heart. This improved circulation improves the heart's efficiency and reduces the overall workload on the cardiovascular system.


What is Heart Rate Variability (HRV)


Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a measure of the variation in time between successive heartbeats. Unlike a consistent interval between beats, a healthy heart exhibits slight variations, which is a sign of a well-functioning autonomic nervous system. HRV is influenced by factors like stress, physical activity, emotions, food, alcohol, smoking, etc.


HRV is used widely by scientists as a stress monitor tool. There is a reverse relationship between stress and HRV: higher HRV indicates lower stress and vice versa.


What are the main conclusions of the research on HRV and blood pressure?


Several scientific studies have investigated the relationship between HRV and blood pressure:


1. A pilot study in young adults at risk for cardiovascular disease in the USA [1] found a significant correlation between HRV and blood pressure levels. Higher HRV (lower stress) was associated with lower blood pressure, indicating a healthier autonomic nervous system.


2. The Toon Health Study in Japan [2] also established a similar connection between HRV and home blood pressure, suggesting that tracking HRV could provide valuable insights into cardiovascular health.


As there are many factors which impact HRV, it is critically important to maintain specific protocols to use HRV to evaluate the direction of blood pressure change.

This means that HRV/(stress) should be measured right before and right after a breathing exercise. This is how you know if this exercise has worked for you. If HRV doesn’t progress in the right direction you can either extend the length of the exercise or try a different breathing pattern.


What is HRV Biofeedback for blood pressure?


In recent years, biofeedback techniques have emerged as a promising approach to help individuals regulate physiological functions. One such technique is HRV biofeedback, which involves monitoring HRV and using the information to influence the autonomic nervous system. While using a biofeedback technique a user will observe a real time HRV indicator and adjust their breathing to maximize the HRV output.


How BreathNow app can help your lower blood pressure and measure progress


BreathNow is an advanced blood pressure app that harnesses the power of breathing exercises and HRV tracking to aid users in lowering blood pressure and promoting overall heart health. Key features of BreathNow include:


1. Broad set of guided breathing exercises including Lower BP, 4-7-8 Breathing, IMST Lower BP, Lower Pain, Deep Sleep, Lower Anxiety, Box Breathing, Energize, etc.


2. HRV/(stress) tracking and analysis: The app utilizes cutting-edge HRV monitoring technology to track users' heart rate variations with the phone’s camera. By measuring HRV regularly, users can gain objective insights into their cardiovascular health and observe changes over time. Users can also measure their progress with Apple Watch.


3. Biofeedback breathing which provides enhanced calming results and helps to lower anxiety and blood pressure even further.


4. Personalized Progress Reports: BreathNow provides personalized progress reports based on the number of heart health indicators including HRV. This feature enables users to understand how their breathing and other activities are impacting their blood pressure and overall heart health.


5. Reminders and Notifications: BreathNow offers customizable reminders, notifications, and plans ensuring that users stay consistent with their activities and tracking routines.


IMPORTANT: As of July 2023 you cannot take blood pressure readings with a phone's camera. This technology simply doesn’t exist yet. Currently Apple Watch doesn’t take blood pressure either.


As explained in the scientific papers referenced in this post one can use HRV to determine the direction of blood pressure changes (up or down) immediately after a specific activity. HRV CANNOT be used for taking blood pressure readings.


In addition to indicating a directional change of blood pressure after an activity, BreathNow also provides a trend of user’s HRV/(stress) over 30 days. As explained in this paper [2], higher HRV (lower stress) is generally associated with better heart health. Taking daily morning HRV readings allows BreathNow users to get insights in what daily activities are contributing to better heart health.


How to use HRV to track blood pressure change

Conclusion


Lowering blood pressure with breathing exercises and monitoring progress through HRV tracking is an effective and natural approach to promote cardiovascular health. Scientific studies have highlighted the link between HRV/(stress) and blood pressure, making it an essential metric to monitor daily.


The BreathNow blood pressure app enhances this journey by providing guided breathing exercises, objective HRV tracking, personalized progress reports, and helpful reminders. With BreathNow, users can take proactive steps toward better heart health and work towards reducing their blood pressure in a non-invasive and empowering manner.


Remember, it is essential to consult healthcare professionals for comprehensive hypertension management. Discuss with them how BreathNow tools can be incorporated in your overall treatment plan. Take charge of your heart health with BreathNow and breathe your way to a healthier future.


References:


1. A pilot study investigating the relationship between heart rate variability and blood pressure in young adults at risk for cardiovascular disease, https://clinicalhypertension.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40885-021-00185-z

2. Association Between Heart Rate Variability and Home Blood Pressure: The Toon Health Study, https://academic.oup.com/ajh/article/31/10/1120/5047412?login=false

3. Implementation of biofeedback in a closed loop of heart rate variability and paced breathing in patients with arterial hypertension, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/354679534_Implementation_of_biofeedback_in_a_closed_loop_of_heart_rate_variability_and_paced_breathing_in_patients_with_arterial_hypertension

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