Grundy County Memorial Hospital | Live Well | Spring 2021

By Erika Leonard, RN, BSN, BA, CCRP Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Breathing is something we all do con- stantly, but have you ever stopped to think about the many health benefits that come with proper breathing tech- niques? Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a condition directly related to circulation, respiration and function of the body’s most vital organs, and is one of the leading cardiovascular dis- orders. Breathing therapy is one way to improve your high blood pressure, relieve stress and get you on a path to healthy, stress-free living. Benefits of focused breathing When you’re stressed or under a lot of pressure, one of the first things that many will say is to “take a deep breath” or “take slow, deep breaths.” Breathing is special because it is the only body function you can perform consciously as well as unconsciously, and it can be completely voluntary or involuntary (automatic). Focused breathing is something that often feels unnatural, but it’s an important technique to learn. As a car- diac and pulmonary rehab nurse, I can teach you deep breathing and other breathing techniques to help improve your health, including hypertension. Conscious breathing tech- niques can help lower your blood pressure and heart rate, increase blood flow, help with digestion, and bring a sense of calm. Breathing has a direct connection to emotional stress and mood. When you are upset or anxious, your breath is fast, shallow and irregular. As you slow your breath, making it deeper and regular, your body relaxes, creating a calm feeling. Breathing and relaxation techniques Breathing is likely something you don’t even think about—your body just does what it’s supposed to, right? However, certain breathing techniques have been shown to have great health ben- efits, including slowing the heartbeat, lowering blood pressure, and calming the body and mind. These include: ● Deep abdominal breathing. ● Alternate nostril breathing. Other ways to help your body re- spond better to stress and to relax are spending time in nature and getting fresh air, and practicing yoga, prayer, meditation or guided imagery. After the year we’ve experienced and all of the extra anxiety that came with the pandemic, de-stressing and finding calm are perfect habits to adopt. So the next time you take a deep breath, think about the benefits that come with that simple technique, and never take for granted the gift of each breath you take! A breathing routine to try Breathe in (inhale) and count silently and slowly “1, 2, 3, 4,” then breathe out (exhale) and count “1, 2, 3, 4.” This simple exercise can (and should!) be done daily. There’s no fancy equipment needed, and it’s a quick and easy way to get your day off to a good start! It’s also a great exercise to do while you are walking, especially outdoors. Sources: 2019 Journal of Education and Health Promotion ; Harvard Health Publishing A breath of fresh air and healthy living! 4 The GCMH Pulmonary Rehab program helps improve your health with an individualized approach to address lung and breathing issues. Call 319-824-5081 for scheduling information.