It's easy to see how breathing techniques can strengthen your lungs, but what about your heart? Today, Carda is here to talk about breathing practices as they relate to your heart health.
We’ll review how breathing techniques can benefit your heart health and describe a few of the best breathing practices you can engage in to enhance your cardiac function. Read on to support your heart and lung health with Carda.
According to one study, breathing exercises focusing on resistance training can help lower your blood pressure. These resistance-focused breathing exercises, known as high-resistance inspiratory muscle strength training (IMST), are any type of breathing technique that provides resistance when you inhale. Not only does the resistance act as a strength trainer for your lung muscles but also for your heart muscles.
High-resistance inspiratory muscle strength training can help enhance your endothelial cell function, which can help lower your blood pressure to strengthen your cardiac health. Your endothelial cells line your blood vessel walls in a thin layer.
They influence your blood pressure by regulating when your arteries open and close, which in turn affects your heart rate. Your brain pays attention to how often your arteries open and close and uses this information to signal to your heart how hard it has to pump in order to circulate enough blood flow to your body.
The study found that engaging in IMST breathing techniques for just five minutes, six times a week lowered high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart rate in treatment group patients. The extent to which IMST lowered people's blood pressure was similar to the effect that medication can have in decreasing blood pressure levels. Moreover, it also had greater effects on decreasing blood pressure than engaging in walking for 30 minutes a day, five times a week.
Resistance-based breathing techniques can help lower your heart rate and even soothe your body out of the fight or flight response in moments of stress. These techniques are easy to do anywhere, including at home, and each one only takes a few moments to practice.
Let's take a look at some of these breath control techniques below.
Your diaphragm is the muscle directly underneath your lungs that helps you breathe. Diaphragmatic breathing exercises, also known as belly breathing, are a way to help you breathe more deeply and feel more relaxed. With deep breaths into your stomach area rather than your rib cage or upper chest, you inhale more oxygen, meaning more oxygen-rich blood can travel through your cardiovascular system.
To practice diaphragmatic breathing, sit or lie down with your knees bent. Next, put one of your hands on your stomach so that you can feel it expand when you perform this exercise. Place your other hand on your chest.
Slowly inhale through your nose, taking in a deep breath. As you inhale deeply, practice using your stomach to guide your deep breath instead of taking a more shallow breath in from your chest. You should be able to feel the hand on your stomach move as you get deeper into your breath, whereas the hand on your chest should not be rising.
Once you finish your deep breath, tighten your abdominal muscles and exhale slowly, feeling your hand on your belly gradually fall back to its original placement.
The 4-7-8 method of breathing is a sub-type of diaphragmatic breathing that focuses on counting your inhale, the pause before you exhale, and your exhale.
To practice this exercise, first, inhale slowly for four seconds. Pause before you exhale, and hold your inhaled breath for seven seconds. Then, exhale slowly through your mouth, drawing out your exhale to last eight seconds.
Equal-length breathing means that your inhales and exhales last the same amount of time. To practice this breathing technique, first try inhaling for five seconds, pausing, and then exhaling for five seconds. Next, gradually try increasing the amount of time you inhale and exhale, and find the right number of seconds that seems challenging but doable for you to achieve your equal-length breaths.
To practice the 30-second breathing technique, get out your phone or another device to set a timer for 30 seconds.
Once you hit start, try to accomplish six deep breaths within the 30-second time frame. You should focus more on the quality of your deep breaths than the number of breaths you complete, though — don't rush your breaths and focus on your inhales and exhales instead of rushing the breath to reach the quantity.
Box breathing is similar to the 4-7-8 technique in that you focus on counting the length of your inhale, pause, and exhale cycle of breath. However, box breathing takes a more uniform approach than the 4-7-8 method because each part of your breathing pattern is the same length of time.
To practice box breathing, inhale slowly for four seconds and then pause, holding your breath for another four seconds before you exhale. Then, as you exhale slowly, count to four again.
To engage in alternate nostril breathing, first put one of your right-hand fingers on your right nostril to cover it up so that no air gets through when you inhale. Next, take a slow breath in, and focus on the air entering your body through your left nostril.
Hold your breath in for a moment, and before you exhale, move your right hand over to cover up your left nostril. After you exhale slowly, repeat your breath cycle, this time inhaling through your right nostril and exhaling through your left.
Pursed lip breathing helps you concentrate on your exhales such that you draw them out more to make your breaths more intentional. To engage in this breathing technique, take a deep breath through your nose. Try to feel your stomach and lungs expanding with air as you inhale.
Before you exhale, purse your lips like you’re about to blow out a candle. Then, gradually exhale through your pursed lips. Try to draw out your exhale to last twice as long as your inhale.
To engage with this breathing practice, take a deep breath in through your mouth, gradually drawing out your inhale to fill your lungs with air.
Then, as you exhale, let out a humming sound, like you're humming a tune to a song or like you're mimicking the sound of a buzzing bee. Keep humming for the length of your exhale until you fully and gradually expel all the inhaled air from your lungs.
If you are trying to lower your heart rate to support your cardiac health, then prioritizing wellness and practicing stress management are other ways to help decrease your heart rate. Prioritizing wellness includes eating a heart-healthy diet, staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep.
Moreover, stress management includes engaging in activities that bring you joy and help you to feel relaxed. Whether that’s connecting with friends, trying a new hobby, or practicing meditation, addressing your stress levels is an important way to help keep your heart rate and blood pressure down.
Another great way to help lower your heart rate is to join a cardiac rehabilitation program. This outpatient program combines cardiac wellness practices with education to support you in your heart health journey and help prevent your risk for heart attack or other heart diseases. In rehab, you’ll participate in guided exercise and learn ways to eat a heart-healthy diet, manage your stress response, and how you can further improve and strengthen your heart muscle.
Rehab is often in-person, but traveling to the center and parking can be a hassle. It can also be hard to get off of a waitlist to secure a spot in a program. However, this is not true with Carda’s cardiac rehabilitation program, which is fully online and easy to get started with.
All you need is a referral from your healthcare provider and to fill out a form online. We’ll send you all the equipment you need to monitor your heart health and vitals at home and will pair you with an expert physiologist to guide you through your exercise routine. Get started today to support your overall heart and lung health.
Practicing breath exercises can strengthen your lung capacity and function and your heart muscle. When you engage in breathing techniques that incorporate resistance, you can help lower blood pressure and lower your heart rate.
Slow breathing exercises can moreover enhance your mood, support your mental health, and help you to relax and feel calmer.
Practicing breathing exercises, such as diaphragmatic breathing or pursed lip breathing, for just five minutes a day, six times a week, can help lower your blood pressure. Practicing these breathing techniques for a short amount of time daily for six days a week can also sometimes have better effects on your heart health than engaging in mild to moderate aerobic activity like walking can.
Engaging in breathing techniques helps to lower your heart rate and enhance your overall cardiovascular health while at the same time supporting your lung health and strength. Try a few today to support your overall health and well-being and to make your heart and lung muscles strong.
Time‐Efficient Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training Lowers Blood Pressure and Improves Endothelial Function, NO Bioavailability, and Oxidative Stress in Midlife/Older Adults With Above‐Normal Blood Pressure | Journal of the American Heart Association