Breathing Tips & Research

What follows are some breathing related tips and research that I’ve compiled over the years. In some cases there are no links to the research, as these links stopped working. I will gradually add more material. So stay tuned!

Deep Breathing, Menopause, Hot Flashes

Research in a variety of fields has shown that breathing deeply can improve our health in many ways. Now comes evidence that deep breathing can help women who experience hot flashes during menopause.

In an article by Carol Krucoff in The Washington Post (August 18, 1998, page Z16), for instance, Robert Freedman, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences in the School of Medicine at Wayne State University in Detroit, points out that studies show that the frequency of hot flashes can be reduced by about 50 percent through slow, deep breathing. According to the article, women going through menopause who use belly breathing and slow down their respiratory rate (to seven or eight cycles of inhalation and exhalation a minute) at the onset of a hot flash can apparently either “abort” it or “reduce its severity.”

Breathing, Ultradian Rhythms, and Headaches

Those readers who have observed their breathing for any length of time have probably noticed that, in general, air does not move through the nasal passages equally at the same time. Usually when the left nostril is more open, the right one is more congested and vice versa. This occurs because the flow of blood shifts back and forth between the nostrils in a rhythm that takes approximately one and a half to two hours. This “ultradian rhythm,” long observed by medical science, is related to the functioning of the brain hemispheres and can play an important role in healing. When the left nostril is more open, the right hemisphere of the brain is generally more dominant; when the right nostril is more open, the left hemisphere is generally more dominant.

You can make use of this fact for your own well-being. You can, for example, intentionally open a nostril that is more congested and thus make the other hemisphere more active by lying down on your side with the congested nostril above and continuing to breathe through the nose. If you are feeling out of sorts or have a headache, trying this experiment for 15 or 20 minutes can often bring relief.

Breathing, Hyperventilation, and Anxiety

As we begin to learn how to observe our breathing, many of us may notice that even at rest our breathing is faster than the “average” rate of 12 to 17 times a minute (a rate which is already faster than it needs to be). In fact, many of us, without knowing it, habitually “hyperventilate”–that is, we take quick, shallow breaths from the top of our chest. This kind of breathing sharply reduces the level of carbon dioxide in our blood. This reduced level of carbon dioxide causes the arteries, including the carotid artery going to the brain, to constrict, thus reducing the flow of blood throughout the body. When this occurs, no matter how much oxygen we may breathe into our lungs, our brain and body will experience a shortage of oxygen. The lack of oxygen switches on the sympathetic nervous system–our “fight or flight reflex”–which makes us tense, anxious, and irritable. Such breathing also reduces our ability to think clearly, and tends to put us at the mercy of obsessive thoughts and images. Some researchers believe that hyperventilation can actually magnify our psychological problems and conflicts, and that chronic hyperventilation is intimately bound up with our anxieties, apprehensions, and fears. The key to slowing down our breathing is not to try to slow it down, but rather to learn how to breathe more fully, using our diaphragm, belly, rib cage, and lower back in the breathing process. See The Tao of Natural Breathing for more information.

Diaphragmatic Breathing Can Help Your Heart

Recent research seems to show that there is a relationship between upper chest breathing and heart attacks. According to Donna Farhi in her book
The Breathing Book (Owl Books, p. 59), patients who had experienced a heart attack were later taught how to integrate diaphragmatic breathing into their daily lives. “In doing so,” says Farhi, “they significantly reduced their chances of having a second heart attack. Another study showed that all 153 patients of a coronary unit breathed predominantly in their chests.” By learning deep, diaphragmatic breathing we can apparently help our heart.

Relaxing Your Face Muscles for Deeper Breathing and More Energy

Those of us whose work requires extreme visual concentration (and the list is a long one, especially in this age of computer technology) can improve our work and increase our energy by making sure that our face muscles are relaxed and by looking away frequently from the work we are doing. This will help our breathing. When our face muscles become tense and our eyes lock onto anything too long, diaphragmatic movement during breathing decreases. This makes our breathing more shallow and means that we’re taking in less oxygen. What’s more, this shallow breathing decreases the lymph flow in our body thus reducing the effectiveness of our immune system. So be sure you check your face muscles every 15 minutes or so to see if they’re tense. And be sure to let your eyes move frequently. If for some reason your work does not allow you to look away, then at least use your peripheral vision. This will help relax your diaphragm and improve your breathing.

Conscious Breathing For Reducing Stress & Pain

Yogis, chi kung practitioners, meditators, and alternative health practitioners have known for a long time that conscious breathing can help reduce stress, increase relaxation, and decrease pain. In her book Molecules of Emotion, famed neuroscientist Candace Pert tells us that bringing our attention to our breathing during meditation brings many such benefits. Such mindful breathing helps us “enter the mind-body conversation without judgments or opinions, releasing peptide molecules from the hindbrain to regulate breathing while unifying all systems.” The key here, it seems, is simply to be present to our breathing, using our inner attention to follow our inhalations and exhalations as they take place by themselves. So if you want to increase relaxation and reduce stress and pain, try sitting quietly each day for at least several minutes and simply follow your breathing with your attention.

Deep Breathing Can Improve Fitness

In a study published in the May 2, 1998, issue of The Lancet, researchers working with cardiac patients at the University of Pavia, Italy, have established an optimum healthy breath rate of 6 breaths a minute. When you consider that the average resting breath rate is 12-17 times a minute, this represents a substantial reduction in breath rate. Patients who learned to slow down their breathing through special deep breathing exercises ended up with higher levels of blood oxygen and were able to perform better on exercise tests. According to the report, low blood oxygen, which is common in cardiac patients, “may impair skeletal muscle and metabolic function, and lead to muscle atrophy and exercise intolerance.” The authors of the study conclude that their findings support other research “that report beneficial effects of training respiratory muscles and decreasing respiratory work in (cardiac heart failure patients), or physical training in general.”

The Importance of Breathing Through Your Nose

Except for emergencies, our breathing was designed to take place mainly through our nose. When we breathe through our nose, the hairs that line our nostrils filter out particles of dust and dirt that can be injurious to our lungs. If too many particles accumulate on the membranes of the nose, we automatically secret mucus to trap them or sneeze to expel them. The mucous membranes of our septum, which divides the nose into two cavities, further prepare the air for our lungs by warming and humidifying it.

There is another important reason for breathing through the nose. This has to do with maintaining the correct balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in our blood. When we breathe through our mouth we usually inhale and exhale air quickly in large volumes. This often leads to a kind of hyperventilation (breathing excessively fast for the actual conditions in which we find ourselves). It is important to recognize that it is the amount of carbon dioxide in our blood that generally regulates our breathing. Research has shown that if we release carbon dioxide too quickly, the arteries and vessels carrying blood to our cells constrict and the oxygen in our blood is unable to reach the cells in sufficient quantity. This includes the carotid arteries which carry blood (and oxygen) to the brain. The lack of sufficient oxygen going to the cells of the brain can turn on our sympathetic nervous system, our “fight or flight” response, and make us tense, anxious, irritable, and depressed. So remember, when possible, to breathe through your nose.

Laughter, Breath, and Healing

We have known for a long time that laughter can help us heal. Norman Cousins has written extensively on this subject. Recent research has shown that laughter reduces at least four hormones associated with stress. In fact, laughter is one of the most powerful stress-reducing tools we have at our disposal. Laughter also helps increase the level of immunoglobulin A, which helps protect us from flu and cold viruses, as well as upper respiratory problems. Laughter, especially a good belly laugh, is also a good source of cardiac exercise and promotes better breathing. It strengthens the breathing muscles in a natural way, and makes them more supple. It also helps clear the lungs of old air.

Dennis Lewis speaks sometimes of some of the workshops he had with Taoist master Mantak Chia, who, as an exercise, frequently got the whole class laughing for 10-15 minutes at a time. After such experiences the students all felt not only invigorated, but also relaxed, their breathing slower and fuller.

Try it sometimes with your friends. Sit together in a room and start making funny faces at one another. It won’t take long before you all find yourselves immersed in deep belly laughter. A few minutes of such laughter every day may well help your breathing, support your health, and lengthen your life.

Boomeritis & Breathing

According to an article by Karen Asp published in HealthGate, The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine are launching an educational campaign to warn baby boomers (those people born between 1946 and 1964) about the fast-increasing number of sports-related injuries occurring to people in this age group. Between 1991 and 1998 there has been a 33% increase in baby boomers ending up in the emergency room. The average medical cost per year for treating these injuries in now more than $18 billion.

There are apparently many factors involved in this increase. Chief among them is the growing recognition by baby boomers of the importance of exercise for a long, healthy life. A second important factor is that baby boomers don’t always recognize the physical changes that have taken place in their bodies through the years and often try to do things with the same intensity that they did when they were much younger.

The article makes a number of recommendations to help with this growing problem, including getting a basic checkup, undertaking a balanced exercise regime, warming up and stretching before any workout, getting rid of the “warrior attitude,” taking lessons, using the right equipment, increasing your exercise level in 10% increments, adding new exercises in a cautious way, learning to listen to your body, and getting professional help for any injuries.

For my own part, I would like to stress the importance of learning how to listen to your body, and would make these related suggestions. First, learn to listen to your breathing. Your breathing will tell you when you have, so to speak, gone overboard. If possible, do only as much as you can do while breathing through your nose (of course, this may not apply to swimmers). In many instances, this will slow you down a bit and help ensure that you are not doing more than you are realistically capable of. Second, learn how to breathe more from your belly. This will help keep you relaxed and moving from your center of gravity. Most problems occur when we lose our overall sense of balance and put too much stress on one part of ourselves. Learning how to breathe from your belly will put you more in the center of yourself and enable you to sense and feel when you are doing too much.

Lung Function May Predict Early Death or Long Life

A nearly 30-year follow-up study by researchers at the University of Buffalo of the relationship between impaired pulmonary function and all causes of mortality shows that how well our lungs function may well predict how long we live. This study, which appeared in the September 2000 issue of Chest, showed that the risk of death was increased not just for people with poor lung function but also those with moderate lung function. The bottom line seems to be: the healthier your lungs and the better you breathe the longer you will live.

Nasal Strips Don’t Boost Athletic Performance

A report in the August 2000 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports and Medicine (2000;32:1491-1495) maintains that whereas nasal dilators do seem to help people who have breathing problems during sleep, they boost neither oxygen intake nor athletic performance for people during waking hours. This should come as no surprise to readers of my various articles, books, and other publications, since I have made it clear that for people with normal lung function getting sufficient air into and out of the lungs is only the first step. It is equally important for the oxygen in the lungs to be efficiently transported into the blood and from the blood into the cells of the body and brain. Inhaling and exhaling more air in a shorter period of time (which nasal dilators make possible by decreasing airflow resistance) may facilitate the first step, but it can, through excessive loss of carbon dioxide, actually reduce the amount of oxygen available to the body and brain.

Indoor Air Can Cause Breathing Problems

According to Green Living House and Home, though most of us blame air pollution on industrial emissions, automobiles, and so on, the air we breathe indoors, where most of us spend 89-90 percent of our time, is often filled with even higher levels of unhealthy chemicals and particles. The best approach to improve the quality of your indoor air is to eliminate, as much as possible, cigarette smoke, mold, mildew, old carpets, burning candles, and even pressed wood cabinets. If you live in a city that does not have unhealthy ozone levels, make sure you open your windows to allow fresh air to enter. If you use air filters, be sure they are not clogged and are operating properly. Though some people use ozone generators to break down harmful gases and bacteria, ozone itself is a lung irritant and can also create harmful chemicals. Negative ion generators, though they do offer many benefits, are not particularly useful for eliminating dust and other particles from the air, since they charge the particles in the air and these particles are then attracted to any walls or other surfaces in the room, including the walls of our lungs. For the entire story, go to:

Overweight People Over-Diagnosed with Asthma

According to a study that appeared recently in Thorax, people who are obese are probably being over diagnosed as having asthma, while thin people are probably not being diagnosed with it enough. In this study, 2000 adults between the ages of 17 and 73 were investigated. Once all confusing factors were eliminated, the results showed that while obese people were twice as likely to be diagnosed with asthma, they were not twice as likely to have overly responsive airways, which is a common sign of asthma. Obese people were more likely to be short of breath than people of normal weight, but various lung function measurements were no different. Those who were underweight, however, were more likely not only to be short of breath, but also to have reduced lung functionality and increased airway responsiveness. The researchers concluded that the wheezing and shortness of breath reported more frequently by obese people were often just the result of “the increased effort” required to breathe for overweight people.

Nose Breathing Can Improve Performance, Stamina, Focus, and Coordination

In her wonderful book The Fitness Instinct, Peg Jordan, a registered nurse and founder of American Fitness Magazine, recounts the story of John Douillard, an Ayurvedic physical therapist who worked with tennis stars like Martina Navratilova. Douillard had to convince them to bring their workout “intensity down to level where they could breathe through their noses.” Though they resisted this at first, Douillard was able to convince them through a battery of sports tests that training in this way “actually improved their performance, stamina, focus, and coordination.” Jordan writes: “Douillard knew that breathing through the mouth tends to inflate only the upper lobes of the lungs, which are connected to sympathetic nerve fibers, the branch of the nervous system that activates the flight-or-flight fear response. … When you switch to nose breathing, you inflate the entire lung, including the lower lobes, which are connected to the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system, the branch that calms the body, slows the heart rate, relaxes, and soothes. Through proper nose breathing, you employ both branches of the nervous system. At times the foot is on the brake; at times, it is on the gas. The back-and-forth fluctuation is a balancing act that your body intrinsically knows how to do and that your mind appreciates.”

Pain, Stress, & Deep Breathing

Though medical researchers have been slow to investigate the intimate relationship that exists between stress, pain, immune function, and illness, there is growing evidence that stress and pain reduce immune system functioning and result in increased illness. In a study reported in the May 2001 issue of the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine, for instance, researchers from the University of Iowa and University of Florida found that short-term immune changes associated with root canal treatments were linked with cold symptoms after the procedure. Those people who had reported especially high levels of pain and stress were apparently the ones most likely to become sick later. Henrietta L. Logan, the study’s principal investigator, who serves as director of the UF College of Dentistry division of public health and research, said “We now need more research on nonpharmacological interventions prior to these procedures that will help lessen patients’ stress and anxiety and improve recovery.” Among the interventions she suggested were “relaxation and deep breathing.”

Breathing Tips for a More-Effective Aerobic Workout

Would you like to get more health benefits from your aerobic workout? Would you like to burn more fat during your workout? Would you like to reduce exercise-related fatigue and injury? Would you like to increase your endurance and stamina? Would you like your workout to help improve your breathing?

If your answer is “yes” to any or all of these questions, then there is one simple thing you can do: don’t let yourself become “breathless” during your workout. When we become breathless, we undermine our breathing coordination, burn sugar instead of fat for fuel, and become tight and tense (which can promote injury).

The simplest way to know whether you are exercising too intensely and becoming breathless is to try to speak several sentences out loud while you’re working out. If you can’t do it without gasping for breath, then your workout is no longer “aerobic”–it is, or is about to become, “anaerobic,” which means that it is proceeding without oxygen and you are no longer burning fat for fuel.

A simple way to ensure that you are working out at a level that will not make you breathless is to inhale and exhale only through your nose. If you try this you will quickly discover, especially at the beginning, that you will have to work at a less intense rate during your workout. Gradually, however, your breathing coordination will improve and you will be able to do more and progress more rapidly.

Another way is to use your pulse rate as a guide. In his book The Portable Personal Trainer, Eric Harr suggests that we subtract our age from 180 to determine the upper limit of our pulse rate during exercise. The key is to stay below this number. He also suggests using a “heart-rate monitor” to ensure that we don’t go above this number. He does point out, however, that because of individual differences this number may not be accurate.

For myself, I do only as much as I can do while breathing through my nose, use a heart-rate monitor, and check occasionally to be sure that I can speak a few sentences while working out. At the beginning, breathing only through my nose seemed to slow me down quite a bit, but after only a few weeks I found that I could progress much more rapidly than I was able to when I allowed myself to become breathless during the workout.

Free Breathing Tests

Is the way that you breathe making you sick, stealing your energy, hampering your productivity, or shortening your life? If you have not already done so, we suggest that you take the free breathing tests offered by our colleague and friend Mike White. There are two tests available: one that takes about 5 minutes, and one that takes 15 minutes. Mike has spent an enormous amount of time over the past several years developing these tests and compiling statistics that show just how pertinent they are. Try these free breathing tests to learn how well you breathe, and what actions you may need to take to improve your breathing.

Quit Smoking for a Year and Live Longer!

I am amazed by how many people, especially young people, still smoke today. I realize that smoking is an addiction, and that it is not easy to stop, but I also know that the evidence clearly shows that smoking reduces your lung capacity and function and thus undermines your health and shortens your life. And, when you add smoking to pollution and poor breathing habits, the negative influence is even worse.

Now comes evidence from Finnish researchers that “quitting smoking for a year at a time can keep lungs from deteriorating and reduce the risk of death.” So even if you cannot stop smoking for good, stopping for a year or more at a time can be highly beneficial. We hope that if you smoke you will take this evidence to heart and stop smoking today.

And, as you know, research shows that smoking has an adverse influence not just on the smoker’s own health and life but also on the health and lives of all of those people who end up breathing her/his “second-hand smoke.” So, if you are a smoker and don’t have enough personal motivation to stop smoking, consider the health and well-being of your friends and loved ones. Are you willing to risk their health and lives for your habit?

Research from China on Breathing & Pulmonary Problems

People with severe pulmonary problems can quickly benefit from work with breathing. In experiments at Shanghai No. 2 Tuberculosis Hospital, 27 people with pulmonary emphysema were able to increase the average range of their diaphragmatic movement from 2.8 centimeters at the beginning of their treatment to 4.9 centimeters after a year of training—an increase in diaphragmatic movement of more than 57 percent. The results are reported in 300 Questions on Qigong Exercises (Guangzhou, China: Guandong Science and Technology Press, 1994), p. 257. (From The Tao of Natural Breathing)

Relax Unnecessary Tension

The movement of the diaphragm–and thus the quality of your breathing–is adversely influenced by unnecessary mental, emotional, and physical tension and stress. As many times as you can remember each day, be sure to sense your entire mind/body and spend a few minutes at a time to relax any unnecessary tension you find. This will help relax your breathing, which in turn will help reduce any mental and emotional stress you are experiencing.

Humming May Help Reduce the Incidence of Sinusitis and Upper Respiratory Infections

In a study that was reported in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (2002; 166: 144-145), researchers at the Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden found that nitric oxide levels in the sinuses were 15 times higher during humming than during normal, quiet exhalations. Nitric oxide (NO) helps to dilate the capillary beds and increase blood flow. Humming had the effect of dramatically increasing the gas exchange in the nasal sinuses. If fact, during normal exhalation the gas exchange between the nasal passages and the sinuses was about 4 percent. When the volunteers (all “healthy”) hummed, the gas increase incased to about 98 percent.

A poor exchange of gas, as well as poor circulation, in the sinus cavities, creates an ideal environment for the growth of bacteria and viruses. And this can quickly lead to infection. Based on the results of their study, the researchers believe that regular breathing exercises that involve humming may be able to help reduce the incidence of sinusitis and infections in the upper respiratory tract.

Breathing-Control Lowers Blood Pressure

Grossman E, Grossman A, Schein MH, Zimlichman R, Gavish B.

Internal Medicine D, The Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Tel-Hashomer, Israel.

“We hypothesise that routinely applied short sessions of slow and regular breathing can lower blood pressure (BP). Using a new technology BIM (Breathe with Interactive Music), hypertensive patients were guided towards slow and regular breathing. The present study evaluates the efficacy of the BIM in lowering BP. We studied 33 patients (23M/10F), aged 25-75 years, with uncontrolled BP. Patients were randomised into either active treatment with the BIM (n = 18) or a control treatment with a Walkman (n = 15). Treatment at home included either musically-guided breathing exercises with the BIM or listening to quiet music played by a Walkman for 10 min daily for 8 weeks. BP and heart rate were measured both at the clinic and at home with an Omron IC BP monitor. Clinic BP levels were measured at baseline, and after 4 and 8 weeks of treatment. Home BP measurements were taken daily, morning and evening, throughout the study. The two groups were matched by initial BP, age, gender, body mass index and medication status. The BP change at the clinic was -7.5/-4.0 mm Hg in the active treatment group, vs -2.9/-1.5 mm Hg in the control group (P = 0.001 for systolic BP). Analysis of home-measured data showed an average BP change of -5.0/-2.7 mm Hg in the active treatment group and -1.2/+0.9 mm Hg in the control group. Ten out of 18 (56%) were defined as responders in the active treatment group but only two out of 14 (14%) in the control group (P = 0.02). Thus, breathing exercise guided by the BIM device for 10 min daily is an effective non-pharmacological modality to reduce BP.”

PMID 11319675 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

The device that was used for this research is called RESPeRATE, which I believe may be helpful for anyone with high blood pressure.

These research results regarding hypertension were obtained through just slow, regular breathing combined with the use of special music. It is my experience that it is possible in many cases to reduce blood pressure much further through special breathing practices designed to lengthen the exhalation and ensure optimum levels of carbon dioxide in the body (see articles on this site about nose breathing, hyperventilation, and Buteyko in Articles/Exercises and FAQs), as well as through special supplements and herbs (see FAQS).

Vitamin C and Airway Function

“Researchers at Children’s Hospital & Research Center at Oakland have found that Vitamin C plays an important role in normal airway function, may prevent symptoms associated with airway diseases such as cystic fibrosis and asthma, and may even help alleviate the dry cough suffered by smokers. The findings of the Children’s researchers are a first step toward evaluation of vitamin C as a drug candidate and therapeutic agent in the complementary treatment of asthma, cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive lung disease.

In the study, the researchers found that low levels of vitamin C may play a role in the progression of common inflammatory airway diseases. Inflammatory airway diseases obstruct breathing and can literally leave patients gasping for breath. …”

Bedwetting Linked to Breathing Problems

According to research discussed in New Scientist magazine, breathing problems may be the cause of bed wetting among children and some adults.

Dr Derek Mahony, who works at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, has found that 8 out of 10 children referred to him for bedwetting problems have a narrow palate that causes breathing problems. When the roof of the mouth is too narrow, the tongue is often pushed back and, during sleep, can partially block the airway.

Past research discovered that using a brace to widen the palate with a can produce dramatic improvements. A Swedish study found that 7 out of 10 children who wet the bed regularly improved within a month or so after using the brace. A study in the UK found that all of the children who used the brace stopped wetting the bed.

No one is sure why an obstructed airway can lead to bedwetting. There are a couple of main theories. One theory is that a problem with breathing creates abdominal pressure, which in turn stimulates urination. Another is that many breathing problems lead to low blood oxygen, which influences the hormones that are involved in the production of urine.

Dr Dudley Weider, of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, believes that the observation that some children stop bed wetting right after the removal of adenoids or swollen tonsils supports the hormonal theory. Weider found that of 300 bedwetting children who had surgery to reduce airway obstruction, 25 percent stopped wetting their beds almost immediately, 50 percent stopped bedwetting within six months or so, and only 25 percent experienced no improvement at all.

In most cases today, parents have little choice but to treat the symptoms rather than the cause of bedwetting. Some parents use drugs to inhibit urine production. Other parents use special alarms to awaken the child as soon wetness is detected by a special sensor.

According to Dr Mary Umlauf, from the University of Alabama, if breathing problems are to blame, they could have far more serious consequences than bedwetting, including problems at school, hyperactivity, and headaches.

This piece is based on a story (dated 7/31/2003) found at:

Incense and Candles in Churches Can Cause Respiratory Problems

Research shows that air inside churches, filled with pollutants from burning candles and incense, may be a bigger health risk than the air we breathe on major roads. Air in churches was found to be considerably higher in carcinogenic polycyclic hydrocarbons than air on roads traveled by 45,000 vehicles a day. The air inside churches also had levels of tiny solid pollutants (PM10s) up to 20 times as high as the European limits. The study, by Maastricht University, The Netherlands, was published in the European Respiratory Journal.

According to Dr Richard Russell of the British Thoracic Society, “Particle pollution, whether it be in an outdoor or indoor environment, can be a danger to lung health and cause respiratory diseases such as emphysema and bronchitis.

“More research needs to be done in this area but we would also recommend that churches look at ways to reduce indoor air pollution such as improving ventilation.”

Sleep Apnea May Cause High Blood Pressure

In a study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, University of Wisconsin researchers, who followed more than 700 people for between four to eight years, found that those people who had the worst sleep apnea at the beginning of the study were the ones most likely to later develop high blood pressure. Sleep apnea is a condition in which a person’s breathing stops between several and dozens of time an hour, without the person knowing it. Though doctors are not sure of the causal mechanism, Paul E. Peppard, of the university’s preventative-medicine department, stated that reduced oxygen in the blood might well put the sympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that reacts to stress and prepares the body for action, into “high alert.”

According to the study, severe sleep apnea can triple a person’s chances of developing high blood pressure, while moderate apnea, defined as less than 15 interruptions an hour, can double a person’s chances, and mild sleep apnea, as fewer that five interruptions an hour, can increase a person’s chances by 40 percent. People with sleep apnea are likely to snore loudly and to wake up feeling unrested.

Too Much Talking Can Kill You

Your blood pressure goes up when you talk and down when you listen, says James L. Lynch is his book A Cry Unheard: New Insights into the Medical Consequences of Loneliness. According to Lynch, a Baltimore psychologist, for those people with hypertension or who lead quiet, lonely lives, too much talking can be lethal, and the risk goes up, he says, as people get older. Lynch says that it’s not the frequency of surges in your blood pressure that can influence your mortality in this regard, but rather how forceful and violent these surges are.

My comments: For thousands of years, The Taoist tradition and Chinese medicine have spoken about the health dangers of gossip and too much talking. However we interpret it, too much talking puts many of us, especially those of us who are not used to talking a lot, into a “fight or flight” condition, which dramatically alters our chemistry and physiology.

Our breathing is greatly affected by too much talking, however gregarious we may be. Too much talking, whether we are lonely or not, alters the oxygen/carbon dioxide balance in the body and can actually promote hyperventilation, which can make us anxious, worried, uptight, and so on. Too much talking also conditions the diaphragm to move in constricted, staccato ways, as we breathe through our mouth while struggling for breath in the middle of our words, which means that the diaphragm will not be able to function rhythmically and efficiently in helping to empty the lungs, massage our internal organs, and promote lymph flow. If you are in a profession that requires a lot of talking, one thing you can try is slowing down your speech, make it more rhythmical and steady, and, when you’re not talking, breathe when possible through your nose. You can and should also practice breathing more from your belly as you speak.

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