Saturday, August 2, 2008

Can RESPeRATE help lower blood pressure?

I investigated this question this summer. First, what is RESPeRATE? This device was approved by the Food and Drug Administration to help lower people's blood pressure. I reviewed the FDA's website and the published studies (available through PubMed). I found the printed evidence to be credible.

One theory explaining why people have hypertension is that they have excess stimulation of a part of their nervous system. The tone of their blood vessels is tighter and their heart beats just slightly more quickly and inefficiently. The treatments based on this aim to relax the blood vessels and to slow the heart rate mildly. In fact, many medications for hypertension are based on this theory and they can work well. Even non-medication treatments based on this theory can be effective. What are they? Forms of relaxation or stress reduction can help. Massage therapy, breathing exercises, or yoga can reduce blood pressure.

RESPeRATE matches your breathing rate to a musical pattern of notes, then the patient tries to slow his breathing rate to match the music. Ideally, the rate is about 10 breaths per minutes, with more time spent exhaling than inhaling. Like any exercise, this should be done for at least 15 minutes several times per week. In studies, the blood pressure of some subjects decreased by as much as 14 mmHg and it's a treatment that does not involve medications. Not bad.

I was intrigued, so I purchased a RESPeRATE DUO - the device for two people. It cost $349 plus tax and shipping, so I thought it had some proving to do for this price. The test subjects were my father and myself. My father has mild hypertension and takes a medication, which works effectively. I do not have hypertension (and as the father of four children, I'm surprised and thankful). The RESPeRATE DUO was easy enough to use. Be care with it. The construction was not particularly sturdy. We used it for 15 minutes three times per week. After 3 weeks, we did not notice any increase in our ability to easily breath through our noses or with our lungs. My father's blood fell by about 5 mmHg while mine remained unchanged. Our plan is to continue using RESPeRATE DUO and chart the results.

In summary, the RESPeRATE device is based on sound science and can help reduce blood pressure. This article does not should not be taken that I recommend everyone with hypertesion should go out and buy this device. Recognize that one treatment may not be effective for every one. Remember also that this is not a substitute for eating properly (a very low sodium diet, NO trans fats, low in sugars), no exposure to smoke of any sort, and routine exercise. The lessons I learned from this are to try to breath slowly and deeply from my abdomen and to not let myself get stressed out.

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