Relaxation Techniques for High Blood Pressure
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States, nearly half of the adult population (47% or 116 million) have high blood pressure. This disease, also called hypertension, is among the leading causes of death in the country. High blood pressure is also an economic burden, annually costing the nation $131 to $198 billion in healthcare services, medications, and productivity loss due to death.
With these facts in mind, individuals may seek ways to manage their blood pressure through affordable and effective means. While some people turn to methods like exercise and essential oils, others find meditation or relaxation techniques beneficial. Not only are these techniques helpful in managing stress and improving sleep, but they can also lead to lower blood pressure and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
This article discusses the benefits of relaxation for blood pressure, and how different techniques may help to manage hypertension.
The Basics of Blood Pressure
Hypertension or high blood pressure is an adverse health condition wherein your blood’s force against the artery walls becomes significantly high enough to cause health complications.
Such complications include the following:
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Metabolic syndrome
- Narrow blood vessels in the kidneys or eyes
- Memory or comprehension difficulties
According to Mayo Clinic, individuals with high blood pressure often do not display any symptoms. Some individuals may report experiencing headaches, nosebleeds, or shortness of breath. However, such symptoms typically do not appear until the disease reaches a severe or life-threatening phase.
The American Heart Association (AHA) published the following blood pressure guidelines :
|Category||Systolic mmHg (top number)||Diastolic mmHg (bottom number)|
|Normal||Less than 120||and||Less than 80|
|Elevated||120-129||and||Less than 80|
|Hypertension stage 1||130-139||or||80-89|
|Hypertension stage 2||140 or higher||or||90 or higher|
Systolic pressure represents the arterial force during contraction, while diastolic pressure represents the force in the vessels between beats.
Since symptoms of high blood pressure often do not manifest physically, it is essential to consult with a primary care provider and monitor blood pressure readings for diagnosis and determination of treatment.
How Relaxation Benefits Blood Pressure
One study from the National Library of Medicine suggested that mind-body interventions, including relaxation, meditation, and stress management, may help manage high blood pressure levels. Individuals may use these methods alone or in combination with other lifestyle adjustments. Relaxation techniques for blood pressure can also benefit individuals struggling with other issues including stress, sleep difficulties, and more. Relaxation can be performed using techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback, or autogenic training. These activities, typically coupled with mental imagery or breathing exercises, may help to achieve mental and physical relaxation.
Relaxation Techniques to Help Lower Blood Pressure
Relaxation is not limited to just one activity. There are several techniques that can help lower blood pressure.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, various meditation methods, such as mindfulness or transcendental meditation, can prompt a relaxation response that may help decrease high blood pressure or other stress-related disorders. Because of the dropping level of blood pressure due to relaxation response, inflammation and blood vessel constriction, blood vessels widen and keep blood pressure under control.
One meditation recommendation is to perform the following steps twice daily for 10 to 20 minutes:
- Sit in a quiet place keeping your eyes closed
- While relaxing your muscles, silently repeat a word, phrase, prayer, or sound
- Stray thoughts can interfere during meditation. When such thoughts arise, let them go. Afterward, return to the word, phrase, sound, or prayer.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation focuses on slowly tensing and relaxing each of the muscle groups. This technique allows one to focus on the differences between muscle relaxation and tension and become more aware of various physical sensations.
Progressive muscle relaxation is best performed in a quiet place with no interruptions. One method involves the following steps:
- Start by tensing and relaxing the toes
- Tense muscles for about five seconds, then relax for 30 seconds
- Progressively continue tensing and relaxing to the neck and head
- Repeat as necessary
Deep Breathing Exercises
Breath focus is one of the features of various relaxation response techniques. Deep breathing is the first step in performing these exercises.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, deep breathing, also called abdominal breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, or paced respiration, promotes full oxygen exchange or the beneficial trade of oxygen coming in for carbon dioxide going out. Furthermore, deep breathing helps to decrease heart rate and blood pressure.
Yoga aims to build strength, harmony, and awareness in the mind and body. Regular yoga practice may provide both physical and mental health benefits.
There are more than 100 schools of yoga. However, most sessions usually include meditation, breathing exercises, and assuming postures (asana) to stretch or flex different muscle groups.
Aside from reducing blood pressure, yoga may help reduce insomnia and lessen chronic pain, including those associated with arthritis, lower back pain, headaches, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Other benefits of yoga include:
- Weight reduction
- Improved energy, respiration, and vitality
- Increased muscle tone and strength
- Improved athletic performance
- Increased flexibility
- Injury protection
- Balanced metabolism
- Improved heart and circulatory health
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Facts About Hypertension. https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/facts.htm. Published July 2022. Accessed August 2022.
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health Topics – High Blood Pressure. https://www.cdc.gov/policy/polaris/healthtopics/highbloodpressure/index.html. Published November 2021. Accessed August 2022.
 American Heart Association. Meditation to Boost Health and Well-Being. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/mental-health-and-wellbeing/meditation-to-boost-health-and-wellbeing. Accessed August 8, 2022.
 Mayo Clinic Staff. High blood pressure (hypertension). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/symptoms-causes/syc-20373410. Accessed August 2022.
 Hypertens J. Current Perspectives on the Use of Meditation to Reduce Blood Pressure. National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3303565/. Published March 5, 2012. Accessed August 2022.
 Harvard Health Publishing. Meditation and a relaxation technique to lower blood pressure. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/meditation-and-a-relaxation-technique-to-lower-blood-pressure. Published June 14, 2022. Accessed August 2022
 Mayo Clinic Staff. Relaxation techniques: Try these steps to reduce stress. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/relaxation-technique/art-20045368. Published April 28, 2022. Accessed August 2022.
 Harvard Health Publishing. Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/relaxation-techniques-breath-control-helps-quell-errant-stress-response. Published July 6, 2022. Accessed August 2022.
 American Osteopathic Association. The Benefits of Yoga. https://osteopathic.org/what-is-osteopathic-medicine/benefits-of-yoga/. Accessed August 2022.