When Bob Hoenig retired from his demanding job in news radio seven years ago, he looked forward to his new, stress-free lifestyle. Then, a cardiac issue — combined with decades of chronic high blood pressure — threw his life into a tailspin.
Bob, 72, had coronary bypass surgery in 2020 to open a clogged artery. While the procedure improved his health, Bob, a self-proclaimed Type A personality, still harbored a lot of anxiety about his heart condition.
“Even though I was taking medication to lower my blood pressure, I still worried about damaging the bypass graft,” says the Howell resident.
Then, Bob enrolled in a six-week Hypertension Management Program at the Star and Barry Tobias Health Awareness Center at CentraState Healthcare System. This free program gives participants tailored, one-on-one guidance to help them understand their condition, manage their medications, and make small changes to improve their physical and mental health.
Lowering stress can lower blood pressure
Bob was matched with wellness coach coordinator Neftali Flores Jr., RN. Each week, Neftali talked with Bob about how he was feeling and shared ways to manage his high blood pressure and reduce his risk of stroke, such as eating less sodium and sugar and being more active. But the most impactful lesson for Bob was learning how to manage stress and keep his cool during stressful situations through a technique called four-square breathing.
“Stress plays a significant role in raising blood pressure,” Neftali explains. “Deep breathing exercises have many benefits, including helping people keep their composure during stressful situations.”
“Neftali really listened to me and helped me open up,” Bob says. “The program was a great experience. I got to know myself better, and I found tools that worked for me.”
By week three of the program, Bob’s blood pressure began to trend lower. He started walking again and taking time to enjoy nature. Even Bob’s cardiologist was impressed with the results. In fact, he was able to stop taking one of his blood pressure medications.
“The program gives clients hope,” explains Neftali. “They learn that they can be proactive in managing hypertension, which, in turn, reduces their risk of heart disease, stroke, brain damage, kidney damage and other complications.”
Now, Bob can better manage the challenges life throws his way, something he’d struggled with for decades.
“I’m much more in control of my life now, I’ve lost weight, and I feel good,” Bob explains. “I thank Neftali for giving me the tools to manage my response to stressful situations. It was the best move I could’ve made.”
Keeping cool with four-square breathing
Here’s how to master the technique:
1 – Sit comfortably.
2 – Slowly exhale out your mouth while counting to four, pushing all of the oxygen out of your lungs.
3 – Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose while counting to four. Feel the air fill your lungs and move into your abdomen.
4 – Hold your breath for another slow count of four.
5 – Exhale through your mouth for another slow count of four, pushing the air from your lungs and abdomen.
6 – Hold your breath for the same slow count of four.
7 – Repeat from number 3 until you feel your anxiety decrease.
To learn more about CentraState’s hypertension management program visit centrastate.com/services/chronic-condition-management.