Imagine, a blood pressure solution that’s so fast it takes just five minutes a day… so easy you can do it while watching television… and so effective it will cut high blood pressure like prescription drugs, but without the use of prescription drugs or supplements.
Researchers say they’ve found it and all you need is a small hand-held device costing less than $50.
The device is called High-Resistance Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training (IMST), developed in the 1980s to help strengthen the breathing muscles of critically ill patients with respiratory disease.
Here’s how it works: Patients have to inhale vigorously through the mouthpiece of the device, which provides resistance to their efforts. Over time this builds up strength in the muscles that we use to breathe. But there’s another added benefit… lower blood pressure.
When researchers began their investigation into the IMST’s effect on blood pressure, they set the device resistance at low levels and patients had to use the device for 30 minutes a day—that’s a long time! But a team of integrative physiologists at the University of Colorado, Boulder, have been testing whether stronger resistance for just five minutes a day would be just as effective at lowering blood pressure.
Readings Dropped By Nine Points
For their new study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in June, they recruited 36 men and postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 79. Apart from having higher than normal blood pressure, the participants were otherwise healthy.
Half of the group carried out a High-Resistance IMST plan over six weeks while the other half carried out a sham procedure in which the resistance level was set lower on the device.
None of the individuals knew which group they were in; nor did the researchers.
The results were impressive.
In the High-Resistance IMST group the systolic (upper) blood pressure reading dropped an average of nine points, from 135 to 126, while the diastolic (lower) reading dropped from 79 to 77. Blood pressure was unaffected in the sham group.
Better than Exercise
The research team reports that the decline in blood pressure is better than what can be achieved by walking for 30 minutes a day, five days a week and is as good as some blood pressure-lowering drugs. Even six weeks after the trial ended participants in the High-Resistance IMST group maintained most of the improvements in their blood pressure levels.
Even more exciting, the health benefits didn’t stop with better blood pressure.
More Open Blood Vessels and Higher Nitric Oxide Levels
A 45 percent improvement in vascular endothelial function – the ability for arteries to expand – was observed in both men and women.
Postmenopausal women not taking estrogen often don’t experience as much benefit as men from aerobic exercise in this key measure of vascular health, but did so in this study.
Meanwhile, researchers observed no improvement in either gender in the sham group.
Nitric oxide, a molecule that drops sharply as we age, also increased significantly. Nitric oxide helps to dilate blood vessels, increase blood flow, lower blood pressure, prevent the build up of plaque and maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.
Markers of inflammation were also significantly lower as were markers of oxidative stress, or the overabundance of damaging free radicals.
In contrast to aerobics, which has a high dropout rate, those in the IMST group completed 95 percent of the sessions. The research team was delighted by the results.
A Therapy With a Lot of Potential
Lead author Daniel Craighead said, “There are a lot of lifestyle strategies we know can help people maintain cardiovascular health as they age.
“But the reality is, they take a lot of time and effort and can be expensive and hard for some people to access, IMST can be done in five minutes in your own home while you watch TV.
“We found not only is it more time-efficient than traditional exercise programs, the benefits may be longer lasting.
“It’s easy to do, it doesn’t take long, and we think it has a lot of potential to help a lot of people.”
His colleague Doug Seals added, “We have identified a novel form of therapy that lowers blood pressure without giving people pharmacological compounds and with much higher adherence than aerobic exercise. That’s noteworthy.”
Earlier preliminary research from the same group showed IMST can improve some measures of brain function and physical fitness as well. Another research team found that using the device improved sports performance, so the applications of this simple therapy could be far reaching.
While the name of the exact device used in the Colorado research was not made available, you can find a number of affordable IMST-style devices available for purchase online.