A simple way to ‘biohack’ your blood pressure

Biohacking. You’ve heard this term thrown around a lot recently. It sounds scientific… maybe even futuristic. But what does it actually mean?

Well, it’s not as technical as it sounds. Biohacking is simply making your mind and body better. It’s like lifehacking (using simple techniques to make your life run more smoothly and efficiently). Except with biohacking, you’re hacking your biology to make your mind and body run more smoothly and efficiently.

Now, people who are really into biohacking can get pretty extreme. They inject themselves with high doses of supplements and untested drugs. They use night vision eye drops. They implant magnets and RFID chips into their skin. That side of biohacking sounds like a science fiction movie. And, honestly, it’s a bit scary.

But biohacking can be incredibly safe and easy too. Eating healthy is technically a biohack, and so is exercising, because they both change your biology for the better.

If you’re looking for a simple, safe, inexpensive way to start biohacking and you also have high blood pressure, I have a suggestion… why not biohack your blood pressure using something called the relaxation response?

According to a recent study, this biohack could lower your blood pressure in just eight weeks. Let the blood pressure biohacking begin!

Relaxing high blood pressure away

Researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at MGH recently found that it’s possible to lower your blood pressure in eight weeks by relaxing.

In fact, by triggering something called the relaxation response, they influenced blood pressure at the molecular level… without any medication. What is the relaxation response?

It’s a set of physical changes that happen in your body when you become relaxed, including a decreased breathing rate and heart rate. Dr. Herbert Benson, Director Emeritus of the Benson Henry Institute and a co-author of this current study, identified the relaxation response more than four decades ago. And since then, studies have found that triggering the relaxation response in your body often enough can alter your genes and increase the cortical thickness of your brain.

In this latest study, 58 people with high blood pressure who weren’t taking medication participated in weekly training sessions for eight-weeks. These training sessions included practices that are known to trigger the relaxation response, like diaphragmatic breathing, mantra repetition and mindfulness meditation. Participants were also given a CD that guided them through these types of practices and were asked to listen to it once a day at home.

After eight weeks, 54 percent of participants experienced a significant drop in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. To see why some people had this impressive improvement in blood pressure and others didn’t, researchers compared blood samples from people whose blood pressure improved and those whose blood pressure didn’t. And here’s what they found…

People who responded to the relaxation response exercise had undergone major genetic changes during those eight weeks. In fact, the expression of 1,771 of their genes was different than when they started.

The relaxation response impacted genes related to immune regulation, metabolism and glucose metabolism, cardiovascular system development and circadian rhythm. So, it may be able to biohack much more than your blood pressure. But for now, lowering blood pressure without drugs in just eight weeks is a good place to start.

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Harnessing the power of the relaxation response

How can you use the relaxation response to biohack your blood pressure…and possibly more?

There are plenty of practices, exercises and techniques that are proven to trigger the relaxation response in your body. Here are a few you can try:

  • Yoga
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Breath awareness meditation
  • Tai chi
  • Qi gong
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Repetitive prayers or mantras
  • Energy healing
  • Acupuncture or acupressure
  • Massage

You can rent a library book or watch a YouTube video on any of the practices above to see if they make you feel relaxed. You can also watch Dr. Herbert Benson’s simple instructional video on triggering the relaxation response. If you practice something that triggers the relaxation response daily, soon you’ll be a verified biohacker with lower blood pressure, a more relaxed mind and, most likely, many other benefits.

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Sources:

Relaxation response may reduce blood pressure by altering expression of a set of genes — ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 21, 2018.

Let’s Not Get Panicky: A Drug-Free Prescriptive to Reduce Stress — Psychology Today. Retrieved June 21, 2018.

Dr. Herbert Benson’s Relaxation Response: Learn to counteract the physiological effects of stress — Psychology Today. Retrieved June 21, 2018.

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.