Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sham: Resperate For Blood Pressure Reduction

How can a product that often does what it is designed to do be considered a sham?

That's the question that I asked myself as I sat down to write this review of the Resperate Blood Pressure Reduction system. For anyone with higher than normal blood pressure readings, you've probably been bombarded with advertisements for this device. You see it everywhere on the Internet. It's a small electronic device that looks like a CD player, and its built-in tunes and a breathing sensor help you slow down your breathing. With regular use, it is designed to make a dent in your high blood pressure readings.

So the questions I asked when I checked out Resperate for review were, 1) Does it work? and, 2) Is it worth the money?

With regards to the first question, I did get a small reduction in my blood pressure readings. But, the second part of my question, the "is it worth it" part, is so flagrantly out of kilter with reality that I believe it moves Resperate into the category of a sham. This is one little $50 or $75 product that has ballooned out of proportion (due to the costs of marketing and advertising) into a $300 medical device.

When your small positive effect is counterbalanced by a huge ding in your checkbook, I believe this can still represent a SHAM. Others may feel differently.

Here's how it works . . . the Resperate device helps you to slow your breathing down by monitoring your breaths and telling you to breath with the little "tune" it generates (you have a choice of several of these little musical passages). The tune slows down, as does your breathing, until you've moved from 12 or 15 breaths per minute to 4 or 5. This "therapeutic breathing zone" has been shown in meditation to reduce blood pressure, so it is indeed based upon science. And for some people who just can't mediate any other way, perhaps Resperate is the way to go.

But, as my doctor told me, you can buy a CD to slow your breathing down, such as "Ken Cohen's Guide to Healthy Breathing" for about $12. The difference between this CD and the Resperate is that the device guides you through it. For some people, perhaps this is worth the additional $280. I may have considered keeping the device myself if it hadn't been so visibly a poor value.

When you receive Resperate, it's clearly not worth the investment by its outer appearance. Like many guys, I'm a gadget nut. When I buy a $300+ electronic goodie, I'm expecting a certain level of quality. After opening the box and seeing those less-than-airline-quality headphones included, my impression went downhill fast.

In this case, the first Resperate unit didn't work at all and had to be returned. Then, I started noticing that the device (which resembles a $20 or $25 WalMart portable CD player) had some real design problems. The chintzy cable for the chest sensor is wired directly inside the case instead of plugging into a jack so that it could be replaced when its 2¢ cable frays and breaks. When cables break on Resperate, the whole unit is dead in the water. And the headphone jack on mine had to be held in just a certain way in order to get the sound, because it was shorted out.

The long and the short of this "sham" is that while the device may do what it says it will do for some people, there remains a big caveat. The savvy shopper will invest $12 first as opposed to $300. Resperate is simply a good $50 idea with an added $250 in marketing costs, (sadly) picked up by the consumer.

I'll stick to the CD, thanks Resperate.



Gem said...

Good blog Dave!

I was about to write about the device Resperate and post the information on my website when I stumbled on your blog.

I care a great deal about my readers getting first hand information on how to lower their blood pressure naturally so this device had caught my attention.

I found your blog very helpful because you bought the device, gave it a good testing on your own blood pressure, and with an honest opinion found that it worked to a certain degree. But also you have made us aware that the device is rather simple and put together quite poorly.

I agree with your review that the same results could probably be gained by using your own music cd.
Breathing techniques have been known to lower blood pressure before this device came about.

As you said, some may need guiding on how to breath. So if it works for them, I think the money is irrelevant. But for the majority of us, we want to say thanks for the insight!

Dave Jensen said...

Gem, Thanks for the feedback. Actually, the disc I suggested is not a music CD, but a "talk you through it" breathing disc. It tells you what to do, you follow it, and then you listen to certain tracks daily to achieve the same results as the Resparate.


Anonymous said...

There is a program called breathpacer on the iphone that does the exact same thing for 3 dollars....

Mitzy said...

Thank you. I stumbled on the resperate site and was excited to see they had a monthly payment arrangement. I don't have health insurance and I take costly drugs for hypertension. I'm grateful I found your site first.

Dave Jensen said...

I just rejected a comment on this post from a marketing person at Resperate. If it had been less of an ad, I would have allowed it to stand. But it was basically just a restatement of what the company promotes on a million websites and web banner ads. Jody, if you'd like to try posting as an individual instead, your post will stand.

Judy Chodirker said...

Hi Dave -- separate from this post just wanted to thank you for the open discussion we had. I've made a few changes and shortened it a bit -- but if you feel any part of it reads like an ad, please edit it to your satisfaction. All the best in your many interesting endeavours.

As the Manager of Scientific Affairs at InterCure (the developer of RESPeRATE), I’d like to point out some important points regarding the science behind the device. Although relaxing, unfortunately a CD that lowers your breathing rate does not provide a sustained reduction in blood pressure. It’s not as easy as it sounds. RESPeRATE interactively guides you in a paced breathing exercise to lower your breathing rate and change your pattern of breathing, In real time, the guiding tones effortlessly bring your breathing rate below 10 breaths per minute. While breathing returns to normal after your session with RESPeRATE, the physiological benefits accumulate so that an all-day reduction in blood pressure is observed within about 3-4 weeks of regular use. Although it's relatively easy to temporarily reduce blood pressure, it's much more difficult to cause a sustained reduction.

Ten published peer-reviewed clinical studies of RESPeRATE have proven that the device is safe and effective at reducing blood pressure. Just like medication, it does not work equally for everyone. The first few clinical trials of RESPeRATE compared the use of RESPeRATE to a control group that listened to relaxing music. Although there was a small reduction in the “relaxation” group, a significant, all-day reduction was seen only in the group using RESPeRATE.

A recent meta-analysis of 25 studies Journal of Human Hypertension (2008) 22, 809–820 reviewing the effect of relaxation on blood pressure, did not find that relaxation techniques including meditation and yoga significantly lowered blood pressure. It is not relaxation per se that lowers blood pressure using RESPeRATE. It is the effortless breathing, specific rate and pattern as guided by the device that lowers sympathetic activity, relaxing the muscles surrounding the small blood vessels and lowers blood pressure.

The latest RESPeRATE device, Ultra, released a few months ago is smaller and sleeker than the original RESPeRATE. Designed with input from thousands of users, RESPeRATE Ultra features a large, enhanced display, fewer buttons, simple menus and a first-of-its-kind Interactive Tutorial.
It also comes with ear buds (rather than headphones) and has a detachable respiration sensor belt. (See

As a scientist, I'm sure you are aware of the high costs of developing unique, validated algorithms and patent-protected technology, conducting high quality clinical research, attaining FDA clearance and maintaining a quality control system for a class II medical device.

Enjoy your CD but don't expect it to lower your blood pressure.

Anonymous said...

I would have edited the snot out of that regurgitation of marketing schpeel. I agree with Dave, $300+ is a ridiculous price for a $50 device and the "algorithm development" argument is weak. Marketing is expensive.

Dave Jensen said...

Thanks Anonymous. I tend to agree with you . . . I wish I had not allowed that marketing pitch on this site. There are ads aplenty for this device in which you can read the same nonsense. This product is a cheazy, overpriced piece of plastic. Period.


Ed said...

Hi Dave,

Could you tell me how long you tested the device (in days or weeks)?

Dave Jensen said...

I got it back to them the day before my free trial ended, just under the wire . . . I have the feeling this is the kind of company that wouldn't give me a break. It was a longer free trial than normal because it was purchased as a Christmas gift in November, and I started using it right away, but it didn't have to be back until late January.

Joel said...

I was thinking about buying this product too when I read about it, but I could not justify the cost to my partner who has HBP as well. Then I remembered about 10 years ago I took this class on breathing and they did talk about the health benefits of it. Furthermore, what we did was sit quietly for about one minute and then went into our breathing exercises. Which was take a breath in and hold for 10 to 15 seconds depending on whether you could hold that long or not and let it out 10 to 15 seconds. All the while counting slowly to yourself. We did this for 15 minutes each day. (I should of kept that up.)

Tai Chi or Yoga for beginners is another GREAT exercise that people can do to help lower their BP. If you have cable or internet there are sites and shows to walk you through them from the comfort of home. For myself I bought a stationary bike that sits in front of my TV that has a monitor so I can do my favorite thing and exercise. 15 to 30 minutes later I am done. The bike is Stamia R360s for around 100; some assemble required but well worth it 100.00 to me.

Dave Jensen said...

Excellent suggestions Joel, thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

Hi All:

I fully agree with the comments that the device is overpriced and that it simply a musical variant of "Pranayama - Breathing Technique" which is part of Yoga.

I simply want to caution people who attempt those "Breathing techniques". Request them to consider the following:

1. If you can get hold of a good / genuine teacher or practitioner, it will be good - but again you could end up with a quack or someone who could be more expensive than the device itself.

2. Stick to two nostril (both nostrils as we do normally) unless you have got guidance on single nostril techniques.

3. Do not hold your breath more than your comfort level - you could end up harming yourselves by overdoing it. The key is at the end of the session you should feel more energetic and joyful, not huffing and puffing and exhausted.

4. The number of minutes per session and number of attempts per day should be gradually increased over a period of time. 10 minutes per session and 3 times per day should be good enough.

5. Attempting these breathing sessions on "empty" or "near empty" stomach is beneficial. Obviously you can't hold your breath or take deeper breaths when your stomach is full.

6. Go easy on the deeper breaths. People who attempt this for first time should not exert themselves too much in trying to take a more deeper breath or trying to hold it for long. The slightest discomfort should alert you to bring things back to normal. As said earlier, enjoy your breathing exercise and the happy results it is going to bring. More often we end up doing this for couple of days and back to our busy schedules. There are much more benefits which slow breathing brings to the table. Lowerering of BP / heart rates are only side benefits.

7. There are certain yogic postures recommended for such breathing exercises, but really not mandatory. They help increase the efficacy of the exercise. The key to have the spine as atraight as possible. Postures like "Vajrasana" can help. Any good website will explain this posture. But a simple erect comfortable posture sitting on a chair would do good. No problem if we want to rest our backs against the chair.

Best wishes.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the Sham assessment but there is more. While using the device I tried hyperventilating just to see if the "sensor" would pick it up. It didn't budge. The "sensor" will tell you if the belt is too tight or too lose, but don't expect it to tell you what your actual breathing rate is!