Heart Health

Breathing exercises to lower your blood pressure

A regular breathing practice may reduce blood pressure as much as taking medication.

By , Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

photo of a woman sitting cross-legged on the floor doing breathing exercises with a laptop open in front of her

The average person breathes in and out some 22,000 times each day, usually with little effort or thought. But here's something worth pondering: practicing slow, deep breathing for just a few minutes a day can lower blood pressure, potentially reducing the first number in a reading (systolic blood pressure) by up to 10 points.

"Anyone with stage 1 hypertension, which is defined as a systolic reading of 130 to 139, should know that breathing exercises are an effective way to lower blood pressure without medication," says Dr. Kimberly Parks, a cardiologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. For people with elevated blood pressure (a systolic reading of 120 to 129), deep breathing could help them avoid high blood pressure in the future, she adds.

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About the Author

photo of Julie Corliss

Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

Julie Corliss is the executive editor of the Harvard Heart Letter. Before working at Harvard, she was a medical writer and editor at HealthNews, a consumer newsletter affiliated with The New England Journal of Medicine. She … See Full Bio
View all posts by Julie Corliss

About the Reviewer

photo of Christopher P. Cannon, MD

Christopher P. Cannon, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Heart Letter; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing

Dr. Christopher P. Cannon is editor in chief of the Harvard Heart Letter. He is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and senior physician in the Preventive Cardiology section of the Cardiovascular Division at … See Full Bio
View all posts by Christopher P. Cannon, MD

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