Respiratory therapy is an effective way to treat high blood pressure and heart disease. Both hypertension and hypotension are circulatory disorders, and as the breathing or respiratory centre in the brain is quite close to the circulatory centre it should now occasion no surprise for readers to learn that breathing has an enormous influence upon the circulation and hence upon the regulation of the blood pressure.
The diaphragm is the most important breathing muscle and separates the chest from the abdominal cavity. On inhalation the diaphragm descends, flattens itself out and thus increases the size of the chest cavity. The most powerful movement of the diaphragm takes place in the supine position, stronger than when standing or sitting. For all that, many persons are unable to breathe so well in the supine position and to satisfy their air hunger, because the pressure conditions in the thoracic and abdominal cavities are different on lying than on standing or sitting.
Furthermore, on lying, the viscera press the diaphragm upwards more towards the head so that the lungs must contract more strongly. This is the real reason why with many heart sufferers the supine position is impossible. They suffer from orthopnea, i.e., they can breathe only in the erect position. Their air-need increases on lying, for only on sitting or standing can the diaphragm descend into the abdominal cavity, because the organs (viscera) no longer press against it.
The less flexible the thorax becomes with age due to shallow breathing over a lengthy period, the firmer it remains in the position of inhalation, and is no longer able to return to the position of rest; all the less also is the quantity of air that is exchanged on respiration. Therefore, people should be taught to prolong exhalation and to pay specific attention to this. To superimpose yet deeper inhalation movements upon the already fixed and firmly held inhalation position is incorrect, because such efforts, which are in part erroneous and spasmodic, deepen the breathing only by a trifle on inhalation.
What is of importance is first to restore the flexibility of the thorax by prolonging the exhalation, and by the energetic movement of the diaphragm to relax the lungs better. The air exchange is thus promoted better than solely by the attempt to inhale forcibly. By such an attempt only the lung tissue, which is permanently distended, becomes still more burdened, an excessive demand being put upon its elastic power. Hence it is quite wrong when some Physical Training Instructors cultivate only the inhalation, and decline to use the exercises by which the thorax is contracted and thus made smaller.
The activating cause of hypertension has been discovered in shallow, ineffective breathing. The outstanding symptom, viz., the considerable rise in the blood pressure, has been brought back to normal by correct systematic breathing exercises. And this is confirmed over and over again in one’s practice. Also the subjective symptoms of this complaint are removed, such as the feeling of shortness of breath, sleeplessness, irritability, pressure in the head and on the chest, headache, palpitation giddiness, apathy to work, memory weakness.
After three to six weeks of the breathing cure patients have become completely well without any other medicament, and have remained so as long as they continue to do the breathing exercises. This proves the point that respiratory therapy can be effective in combating this disease.