Dr. Brook and his colleagues are hoping to set the record straight with their comprehensive review on what does—and what doesn’t—supplement standard treatments for lowering BP. According to the research, these three things could help:
Isometric hangrip exercises In other words, contracting your hand muscles in quick, short bursts, like when you squeeze a stress ball. But it’s not just about reducing stress. Instead, handgrip exercises “can directly improve the blood vessels’ ability to relax,” Dr. Brook says. Try two minutes of pulse-and-release squeezing, followed by a break of a few minutes, for 12 to 15 minutes, three times a week.
Slow, deep breathing In one study, participants practiced three or four 15-minute deep breathing sessions with a special machine called a RESPeRATE that uses a sensor to track your breathing pattern and guide you to breathe more slowly and rhythmically. The result: The mindful inhales and exhales positively affected the central nervous system by relaxing the blood vessels, making it easier for blood to flow and helping BP levels drop. Research hasn’t conclusively shown if deep breathing on your own can lower blood pressure or not. Still, it certainly can’t hurt—and could help. Try this 2-minute breathing exercise to relax anywhere.
Meditation Researchers aren’t exactly sure why, but they think meditation could reduce stress. That in turn helps balance your autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for helping your body maintain normal blood pressure. Transcendental meditation, where you repeat a sound or mantra with closed eyes, was shown to be particularly effective. Click here to find the right meditation style for you.