People suffering from hypertension (also known as high blood pressure) are typically advised to switch to a healthier diet, get more exercise and lose weight, plus they are often put on a combination of several medications. As of today, UK residents are now also able to get a prescription for what is definitely a different type of treatment - a system known as RESPeRATE. It monitors the patient's breathing and uses sound to guide them into taking longer, slower breaths, thus relaxing their bodies. According to its makers, multiple clinical trials have shown that it causes significant, lasting reductions in blood pressure.

RESPeRATE consists of two parts - a strap-mounted breathing sensor, and a small headphone-equipped computerized control unit.

The sensor is placed around the patient's upper abdomen, where it monitors inhalations and exhalations in real time. The system converts these into two different tones, which are played back through the headphones. Patients start by breathing in time with these tones, which represent their current rate of respiration. Gradually, however, the system lengthens the duration of the exhalation tone. It does so until the patient has reached a "therapeutic zone" of less than ten breaths per minute.

Reportedly, after several minutes of this slow, deep breathing, "the muscles surrounding the small blood vessels in the body relax, blood flows more freely, and blood pressure gradually starts to lower." When used for 15 minutes a day, at least four times a week, the device is said to significantly lower the user's blood pressure, and keep it down even when they're breathing normally.

Needless to say, claims made regarding any type of therapeutic device should be treated with a dose of skepticism. That said, the UK's National Health Service has decided that based on ten clinical studies and other data, the thing is legit. Brits can now get the device by prescription, or pay GBP200 (US$317) and buy it direct.

Given that RESPeRATE has already been available without prescription for a few years, we would definitely be interested in receiving comments from any readers who have tried it.

The following video provides more information on how it's used.