Nasal breathing can help reduce high blood pressure

Credit: Marek Studzinski/Unsplash.

Recent research published in the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology has uncovered significant health benefits of nasal breathing, particularly in relation to cardiovascular health.

This study, recognized for its importance as an APSselect article for January, delves into how breathing through the nose rather than the mouth can positively impact blood pressure and other factors linked to heart disease risk.

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the U.S., with blood pressure and heart rate being key indicators of heart disease.

The study explores the interaction between respiratory and cardiovascular systems, focusing on the effects of nasal breathing.

While it’s known that nasal breathing can relax airways and improve breathing efficiency, its impact on the cardiovascular system was less understood until this study.

The research involved 20 young adult volunteers participating in a crossover study under both rest and exercise conditions. During the rest condition, participants engaged in nasal-only and mouth-only breathing in a random order.

They sat quietly for five minutes and then breathed at their own pace for another five, using nose clips for mouth-only breathing to prevent nasal airflow.

In the exercise condition, designed to simulate moderate-paced walking, participants used a recumbent stationary bike while breathing through either the mouth or nose, again in a randomized sequence. The team measured blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, and heart rate during each activity.

The findings revealed that during rest, diastolic blood pressure was lower, and there was a reduced perceived rate of exertion when participants breathed through their nose compared to their mouth.

Additionally, nasal breathing appeared to shift the nervous system to a more parasympathetic state, associated with rest and digestion, rather than a sympathetic state, which is linked to fight or flight responses.

However, these benefits were not observed during the exercise condition. The researchers concluded that while nasal breathing offers modest improvements in cardiovascular variables at rest, the same is not true during physical activity.

This study broadens our understanding of how nasal breathing affects crucial cardiovascular variables, laying the groundwork for future, longer-term studies in varied populations.

This research is especially relevant given that over half of U.S. adults identify as “mouth breathers.” It highlights the potential health benefits of nasal breathing and its role in promoting cardiovascular health, particularly in resting conditions.

The research findings can be found in American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology.

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