Breathing Exercises May Help Prevent Hypertension when Early Detected

By Lisa Franchi on May 03, 2017

Researchers from University of Melbourne and Macquarie University saw an unusual activity between neurons controlling breathing and blood pressure during the development of essential hypertension – type of blood pressure which has no known cause and affects 30% of the global population. 

"Biathletes have to regulate their breathing to slow down their heart rate before rifle shooting, and eastern meditative practices such as yoga and pranayama have always emphasised the interaction between the two," says Professor Andrew Allen, the lead researcher. He notes that the neurons represent a potential target for therapies to prevent hypertension from manifesting in middle age. However, Prof Allen warned that any intervention should be done early while the nervous system is still plastic. 

"By interrupting the activity between these two groups of neurons during adolescence, we were able to dramatically reduce development of high blood pressure in adulthood," says Prof Allen. 

In adulthood, the interaction between theses neural circuits becomes fixed and any reductions in blood pressure from breathing adjustments appear to be temporary. 

Breathing and blood pressure are functionally linked through the sympathetic nervous system, which sends nerve signals to the heart and blood vessels. The altered neural activity leads to increased fluctuations in blood pressure with every breath and are seen in both the animal model and young, healthy adults at risk of developing high blood pressure in middle age. 

But this emphasizes the need to detect high blood pressure early. "By understanding what predictors of hypertension are easy to assess, we might be better placed to offer early treatment to pre-hypertensive patients," Prof Allen says. 

The study was published in the journal Cell Metabolism. 

Source of this article: 

Cell Metabolism

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