Blood pressure pills (Coreg, Norvascor), changing diet (get rid of salt, fat), walking for two miles per day…these are among the things my cardiologist, one of the most respected in the country, prescribed to lower my high blood pressure.Â I asked my cardiologist if there was any other way, long term, to bring blood pressure under control.Â He said that he had seen some studies that indicated Pranayama Yoga (that focuses on breathing exercises) lowered high blood pressure.Â
Forty years ago, my father had high blood pressure.Â He tried drugs, he tried going away to the country, and taking extended vacation.Â He controlled his diet.Â Finally, he decided to take yoga classes at the All India Yoga Institute.Â Within two years, his blood pressure was under control and it still is under control.
I tried doing meditation but was having a really hard time getting my breath under control.Â While searching the Internet I found reference to a FDA approved device called ResperateÂ that claims to lower blood pressure by using special breathing exercises.Â Studies showed that within eight weeks of regularly using the device, patients’ blood pressure was lowered by an average of 14 systolic points (the upper number in the reading) and 9 diastolic points (the lower reading). Resperate costs $299–a bit expensive for a gadget.Â I get the feeling “medical devices” are priced like parts on a sailboat or airplane–triple the price.Â Since they had a eight week money back guarantee I ordered it.Â
What do you get? The resperate device, a set of headphones, and a band to place just below your chest. When you start the exercise Resperate measures your breathing rate–mine was initially 17 breaths per minute. The goal is to get it under 10 breaths per minute. The device guides to slow your breathing through a series of tones that prompt you to breathe in and out. The exercise lasts for approximately fifteen minutes.
Is it easy to do?
Yes, but you have to do it consistently (3-5 times per week) and it takes a bit of discipline. To be honest I have had a hard time doing this consistently but am going to give it another try (that’s what New Year’s Resolutions are for). It is very relaxing to do the exercise right before going to sleep–I sleep much better if I do it.
Does it work?
I don’t know. Resperate does offer links to seven peer-reviewed articles on their website that discuss the methodology.
What do I wish was different?
It’d be cool if they’d make it about the size of an Ipod. Better yet, license the “tune” to iPod and create an interface that would hook up the belt that measures the breaths per minute. About the only other thing I don’t like is the tangle of wires and belts that inevitably results with the device.Â Of course that’s true of most electronic devices.
Is it worth trying?
Drugs have side effects. High Blood Pressure is a leading cause of health problems in the country. For me, I thought it was worth the try.Â Even if it doesn’t help my blood pressure, the device leaves me feeling much more relaxed and focused–not a bad thing.Â I continue to eat healthy, exercise, and take my medicines and follow my cardiologist’s advice.