Walk into your doctor’s office with high blood pressure and chances are you’ll walk out with a prescription for a hypertension drug.
Americans spend over $20 billion a year on hypertension medications.
These drugs often have serious side effects. They include sexual problems, headaches, fatigue, and chronic cough. Some have even been linked to cancer.1
A new study shows there’s a natural solution that could allow many people to stop taking risky blood pressure meds. And it takes an investment of as little as five minutes a day.
Researchers have known for decades about something called the relaxation response. And scientists at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital recently teamed up to study its effects on blood pressure.
They looked at 24 people with blood pressure higher than 140/90 but less than 160/105. Participants were either not taking hypertension medication or had tapered off them for five weeks prior to the study.2
For eight weeks, the group attended weekly relaxation response sessions. They were taught mindful meditation, breathing exercises, and mantra repetition. They also were encouraged to practice the techniques at home.3
What happened to their blood pressure?
More than half the participants dropped their blood pressure to below 140/90.
Dr. Randall Zusman is a co-author of the study. “We found that the relaxation response can successfully help reduce blood pressure in hypertensive patients who are not taking medication,” he said.
He noted that in some patients, the relaxation response lowers blood pressure better than drugs. And it has no side effects.
“Traditionally, hypertension is treated with pharmacologic therapy, but not all patients respond to drug therapy, and many experience treatment-limiting side effects,” Dr. Zusman said. “In these patients, alternative strategies are invaluable.”
Control the Genes that Control Blood Pressure
Another portion of the study showed that meditation actually changes the genes that control blood pressure. Researchers found that after using the relaxation response, subjects’ genes were better able to direct the function of cells that lower blood pressure.4
Dr. John Denninger is another co-author of the study. “Our results suggest that the relaxation response reduced blood pressure–at least in part—by altering expression of genes in a select set of biological pathways.”5
The researchers say the study is good news for people who either don’t want to be on blood pressure medications or can’t tolerate the side effects.
The study was published recently in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
Mindfulness Meditation Brings on the Relaxation Response
Yoga is one way to induce the relaxation response. The deep breathing and meditation done during yoga sessions lowers blood pressure, researchers found.
Or you can try a simple daily relaxation technique called mindfulness meditation. It’s easy. And it’s beneficial even if you do it for only five minutes a day.
Here’s a step-by-step guide:
Find a seat. Sit on a chair, park bench, carpeted floor—anywhere that is comfortable. You want a stable, solid seat…not a porch swing or rocking chair.
Position your legs. Many people like to cross their legs, but that’s not necessary. Sit so that you can relax.
Sit up. Straighten your upper body, but don’t be stiff. Your back has a natural curve. Let it be there.
Drop your hands. Let your hands rest naturally on your legs.
Look ahead. You can close your eyes or gaze forward without focusing on anything in particular.
Feel your breath. Pay attention to the physical act of breathing. Notice your chest and belly rise and fall. Mentally note breathing in and breathing out.
When your mind wanders… Don’t worry about it. That’s normal. Just go back to paying attention to your breathing.
Stop. Open your eyes if they were closed. Notice how your body feels. Pause for a moment to consider how you’d like to continue on with your day.
As little as five minutes a day is beneficial. But longer sessions—up to a half hour—or two or three shorter sessions a day, work well for many people.
Why not give it a try? The only thing you have to lose is high blood pressure.
Editor’s Note: If you’re worried about your blood pressure, there’s something else you should know…
Something strange was happening to pilots training to fly F-16 fighter jets. The ones who went into the program with elevated blood pressure were coming out a few weeks later with normal, healthy readings.
They hadn’t taken any medications… Their diets hadn’t changed… And they hadn’t made any changes to their exercise regimens.