Art, Music, DanceHigh Blood PressureRelaxation

Lowering blood pressure with music-guided slow breathing

Bradypnea (slow breathing) was studied by researchers at the University of Florence, in Italy.

First, the details.

  • 86 people with high blood pressure were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 treatment groups.
    • Music-guided slow breathing exercises (4-6 breaths/minute; 1:2 ratio of inspiration:expiration duration)
    • A control group taught to relax while listening to slow music.
    • A control group taught to relax while reading a book.
  • Patients were monitored at the start of the study and at follow-up visits (1 week and 1, 3, and 6 months).
  • Systolic blood pressure monitoring was performed.

And, the results.

  • Music-guided slow breathing exercise was associated with a significant reduction in 24-hour and nighttime systolic arterial blood pressure.
  • The average reduction at 6 months with music-guided slow breathing was 5 and 4 mmHg vs the control-music and control-reading groups, respectively.
  • Antihypertensive treatment tended to reduce the blood pressure lowering response to music-guided slow breathing.
  • After adjusting for the effect of slow breathing and antihypertensive treatment, factors that significantly affected the blood pressure response included a general positive affect, emotional ties, and loss of behavioral control.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Daily sessions of voluntary music-guided slow breathing significantly reduce 24-hour systolic arterial blood pressure, and psychological predictors of efficacy can be identified.”

These findings support an earlier study in 2001. Researchers at The Chaim Sheba Medical Center, in Tel-Hashomer, Israel, reported significantly greater reductions in systolic blood pressure (8 mmHg) with musically-guided breathing exercises vs 3 mmHg in the control group — a 5 mmHg difference.

A PubMed search revealed no other studies combining music with slow-breathing. Although researchers at Seattle University, in Washington reported that guided relaxation may be more effective in lowering blood pressure than plain music.

As an aside, ACE inhibitor drugs cause an 8-point reduction in systolic pressure, with most of that change achieved with the lowest recommended dose.

7/31/10 22:26 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.