|The easiest way to lower blood pressure is by popping a pill. It takes just a few seconds and you are finished. But pills cost money and often have side effects. Fully relaxing your body and your mind for a few minutes a day could lower your systolic blood pressure (the top number of a blood pressure reading) by 10 points or more—at no cost, and with no side effects.
Researchers with the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital compared a stress management technique called the relaxation response with education about lifestyle changes such as sodium reduction, weight loss, and exercise. They found:
The relaxation response, developed by Harvard’s Dr. Herbert Benson, has been shown to reduce heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and muscle tension. Here’s how to do it:
Blood pressure basics
Blood pressure is the force that a wave of blood propelled from the heart exerts on the arteries. It is measured at two points; each measurement is recorded in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).
Systolic pressure gauges the pressure in the arteries at systole (SIS-tuh-lee), the instant when the heart contracts and pushes a wave of blood along the arterial tree (think “s” for squeeze). It is the top number of a blood pressure reading.
Diastolic pressure reflects the pressure during diastole (die-AS-tuh-lee), the brief period of relaxation between beats. It is the bottom number of a blood pressure reading.
Hypertension is the formal name for high blood pressure.