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How Much Do You Actually Know About Healthy Breathing?

-Healthy Breathing for the mind, gut and body

There is a close relationship between depression, anxiety and the development of some gastrointestinal conditions. Believe it, or not many of these symptoms are due to the ways an individual breathes.

Over time the capacity of our lungs decreases as we age, somewhere around our mid-20s. There are other factors however that can speed up the reduction of the lung capacity such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This causes shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing. There are certainly a plethora of ways that can maintain and increase the lung capacity which keeps the lungs healthy and gets you all the oxygen needed.

How to recognize if one has faulty breathing?

Shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing is surprisingly common. If one happens to face this, the individual experiences an intense tightening in the chest also called “air hunger”. The worst case may set a sensation of panic and suffocation. This breathing difficulty may be a symptom of lung/heart disease or even obesity.

Simplifying it furthermore-

With a couple of rough clues, the symptoms of shortness of breath or dyspnea can be classified into having these three qualities-

1. Effort- the sensation that triggers one to put an excessive effort to breathe (just as breathing like a slog).

2. Tightness- the feeling of constriction of the airways, the way it occurs in the early stages of an asthma attack (Tightness can also be caused by muscle pain).

3. Air hunger- the breaths feel too small. This is also associated with anxiety.

Roughly one-quarter of the population experience dyspnea and it is one of the most common reasons as to why patients have to be rushed to the emergency rooms.

American Thoracic Society (ATS) defined dyspnea as “a subjective experience of breathing discomfort that consists of qualitatively distinct sensations that vary in intensity”.

Many other signs of severe difficulty in breathing include rib retractions, nasal flaring, cyanosis, gasping and a rapid heart rate. The shortness of breath is also associated with the symptoms of chest pain, anxiousness, fainting, cough, neck pain, inhalation pain and bloody sputum.

What are the abnormal breathing patterns?

To be aware of the abnormal breathing patterns, it is first important to learn about the normal breathing pattern first-

  • Inhalation of 1.5 to 2 seconds.

  • Exhalation of 1.5-2 seconds.

  • An automatic pause of 2 seconds with absolute no breathing.

  • Breathing frequency of 10-12 breaths-min.

  • The depth of inhalation(tidal volume) is 500-600ml.

The abnormal breathing patterns include-

1. Apnea

-The absence of breathing.

-Irregular breathing at night and excessive sleepiness during the day.

2. Orthopnea

-unable to breathe lying down.

3. Hyperpnea

-increased volume with or without an increased frequency in breathing.

4. Hyperventilation

-increased rate and depth of breathing that result in a low level of carbon dioxide in the blood.

– dizziness, weakness, muscle spasms.

5. Hypoventilation

-too shallow or too slow breathing.

-causes an increase in the carbon dioxide level and a decrease in oxygen level in the body.

6. Tachypnea

-increased frequency with no blood gas abnormality

7. Kussmaul’s Respiration

-increased rate and depth of breathing over an extended period.

-occurs due to metabolic acidosis where the body flushes out CO2.

8. Cheyne-Stokes respiration

– A pattern with an increase in the volume and frequency of respiration followed by a decrease in the same. It is then followed by an apnea period of 10-30 seconds.

9. Biot’s respiration

-Similar to Cheyne-Stokes respiration but the thoracic volume is constant here except during period.

Abnormal Breathing Patterns, Image Credit: TDMU

What can you do if you have breathing difficulty?

With no prior medical history, if you suddenly find yourself with an acute breathing problem, try to stay calm and find the source of the problem. The situations that trigger breathing difficulty are important clues to underlying causes. Negligence to allergies such as pollen, dander and mold can cause shortness of breath similar to the dust and pollutants in the environment such as carbon monoxide and nitric oxide. Nitric oxide sure is a slow poison.

Difficulty in breathing is also experienced due to physical exertion during exercise, sex and sports. Try to slow down or do not move altogether for a while. Consider the causes without panicking. There might be a problem with the airways leading to the lungs that include blockage to the air passages of the mouth, nose and throat. However, if the difficulty in breathing continues, rush to the emergency room immediately.

Most people do not breathe properly because of-

1. Smoking

Tobacco causes lung and heart diseases. Once you stop smoking the risk of such diseases begin to drop irrespective of the number of years you have been smoking.

2. Exposure to pollutants

Surprisingly allergens and toxins are present inside our homes too. Most of these find their way through dirty air filters in the Air Conditioning Unit. The experts of home air conditioner repair suggest to avoid inhaling these pollutants as soon as possible by replacing the air filters.

3. Obesity

Lose weight if you are overweight to fight breathing problems.

4. Carelessness

Take the best care of yourself if you have any underlying medical condition. Have an action plan and discuss it with your doctor before the symptoms become worse.

5. Heart rhythm problems

In this case, the oxygen is not properly pumped around the body with an irregular heartbeat.

The treatment for breathing difficulty depends on its cause. The treatment may include antibiotics, oxygen therapy, medications, heart, blood pressure and wheezing medications. There is no one treatment because it will depend on the cause of breathlessness.

Breathing is a soft and autonomous phenomenon. Nobody is ever taught how to breathe. Our breathing patterns ultimately match our environment. Living in a fast-paced world with not a moment of reflection, we have come to terms with anxiety, depression and pollution, not realizing how it affects us. It is time to think of breathing in the same way we think of water. Just as water is necessary for life if we do not drink enough of it, our body slows down if we do not get enough of oxygen. It is now time to be more mindful of the rhythm of your breaths.

“As you breathe in, cherish yourself. As you breathe out, cherish all Beings.”

― Dalai Lama XIV

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