Hypertension is a major risk factor for serious health issues like cardiovascular diseases and mortality. It is also associated with organ damage and heart, liver and kidney failure. One of the causes of hypertension is autonomic imbalance, where the coordination between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems is deficient. Hypertension is usually treated pharmacologically (drug treatment), however changes in breathing patterns have also been show to have a positive influence on blood pressure and autonomic control.
Given the above information, it is logical to wonder whether or not these breathing changes can help individuals suffering from hypertension. The study discussed in this blog explores inspiratory muscle training (IMT). In it, IMT was tested for reduction in blood pressure and improvement of autonomic cardiovascular control in patients with essential hypertension. Let’s take a look at the findings below.
- Hypertension is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and organ failure.
- Hypertension is caused by an autonomic imbalance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
- 8 weeks of respiratory muscle training (RMT) lowered daytime blood pressure and improved components of the heart rate variability in people with hypertension.
RMT effectively lowers blood pressure and improves autonomic control in people with hypertension.
The following were assessed over the course of the study:
- Inspiratory muscle strength
- Blood pressure
- Heart rate variability
- Maximal oxygen consumption (during exercise)
The above were assessed before and after eight weeks of IMT in patients with essential hypertension, and compared to a sham-treated control group.
Inspiratory muscle strength significantly improved as a result of IMT. In addition, blood pressure was shown to be significantly lowered in the training group after IMT. Detailed analysis showed that daytime blood pressure, not nighttime, was reduced as a result of IMT. With regards to heart rate variability, IMT led to increased high frequency and reduced low frequency components, as well as triggering improvements in sympathetic discharge.
In conclusion, IMT leads to significantly lowered blood pressure and improved autonomic cardiovascular control in patients with hypertension. This is meaningful as it implies that IMT is effective in managing hypertension and may be a possible non-pharmacological treatment option for patients.