Mindful Breathing as an Effective Technique in the Management of Hypertension
Introduction: Hypertension is one of the most important, modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The popularity of wearable devices provides an opportunity to test whether device guided slow mindful breathing may serve as a non-pharmacological treatment in the management of hypertension. Methods: Fitbit Versa-3 and Sense devices were used for this study. In addition, participants were required to own an FDA or Health Canada approved blood pressure measuring device. Advertisements were shown to 655,910 Fitbit users, of which 7,365 individuals expressed interest and filled out the initial survey. A total of 1,918 participants entered their blood pressure readings on at least 1 day and were considered enrolled in the study. Participants were instructed to download a guided mindful breathing app on their smartwatch device, and to engage with the app once a day prior to sleep. Participants measured their systolic and diastolic blood pressure prior to starting each mindful breathing session, and again after completion. All measurements were self reported. Participants were located in the United States or Canada. Results: Values of systolic and diastolic blood pressure were reduced following mindful breathing. There was also a decrease in resting systolic and diastolic measurements when measured over several days. For participants with a systolic pressure ≥ 130 mmHg, there was a decrease of 9.7 mmHg following 15 min of mindful breathing at 6 breaths per minute. When measured over several days, the resting systolic pressure decreased by an average of 4.3 mmHg. Discussion: Mindful breathing for 15 min a day, at a rate of 6 breaths per minute is effective in lowering blood pressure, and has both an immediate, and a short term effect (over several days). This large scale study demonstrates that device guided mindful breathing with a consumer wearable for 15 min a day is effective in lowering blood pressure, and a helpful complement to the standard of care.