Practicing breathing exercises may prevent hypertension in adults, if caught early while the nervous system is still plastic, according to an Australian study published in Cell Metabolism.
Researchers at Australia's University of Melbourne and Macquarie University have uncovered unusual activity between neurons controlling breathing and blood pressure during the development of essential hypertension --high blood pressure with no known cause -- a major risk factor for stroke that affects 30% of the world's population.
The study's authors explain the phenomenon by the fact that breathing and blood pressure functionally are linked through the sympathetic nervous system, which sends nerve signals to the heart and blood vessels. Changing the rate of breathing, with every breath, causes altered neuronal activity that leads to fluctuations in blood pressure.
By interrupting activity between the neurons that control these two functions during adolescence, the development of high blood pressure in adulthood is dramatically reduced, the study reports.
Although breathing adjustments in adulthood aren't without interest, the interaction between these neural circuits becomes fixed at this time of life, and any reductions in blood pressure from changes in breathing appear to be temporary, the researchers explain.
Conscious breathing is an effective way to slow the heart rate that has long been known to athletes and meditators.
Patients suffering from prehypertension (slightly elevated blood pressure) could benefit from regularly practicing yoga, according to a study presented December 8, 2016, at the 68th Annual Conference of the Cardiological Society of India (CSI). Yoga may decrease the sympathetic drive and reset baroreceptors, which are present in the layer of elastic tissue in blood vessels and help regulate blood pressure.
Prehypertension is blood pressure situated between normal and hypertension ranges, or between 120/80mmHg and 139/89mmHg, according to the World Health Organization. Patients suffering from the condition can reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease, including stroke, by taking exercise.
In January, The American Heart Association advised women to pay closer attention to heart health from the age of 20. However, most American women don't think heart screenings are necessary before the age of 41.
In February, an American clinical study claimed that 100,000 deaths could be prevented each year by aggressively lowering blood pressure.