Deep Breathing for Heart Health

Stress is not just an inconvenience — it’s a health hazard; because when your mind is in crisis, so is your body. Stress may not literally “make your blood boil,” but it can create some unsafe conditions for your heart.

Heart disease (also known as cardiovascular disease) remains the leading cause of death in the United States, and many of the contributing factors — high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, smoking, physical inactivity alcohol dependence — are related to chronic stress.

But here’s the good news, by managing your stress levels, you can improve your overall health and reduce your risk of heart disease. And you can start working towards alleviating stress today by adopting a few simple practices such as staying positive, not smoking, limiting intake of caffeine, avoiding too much alcohol, and enjoying a balanced diet rooted in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and minimally processed foods.

But one of the most effective techniques for immediate stress relief is deep breathing. Several studies have shown how deep or diaphragmatic breathing can slow your heart rate and reduce blood pressure. This kind of breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, which reduces the “fight or flight” response that causes feelings of anxiety or tension. This gives you a chance to manage those feelings and your stress levels, allowing you to calm yourself down easily in just a few moments.

Deep breathing can be practiced anywhere and anytime. Try it now using the GIF above, and try to practice breathing on the go, or mindful breathing, throughout your day.