Slow, controlled breathing might protect against Alzheimer's, suggests study


July 25, 2023 | 07:49 pm
3 min read

Deep breaths increase heart rate variability, signaling safety to the brain

Take a deep breath, it might be the secret to a healthier brain!

Scientists at USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, California, United States found some really interesting evidence that shows if you do intentional deep breathing, it might lower your chances of getting Alzheimer's disease, no matter how old you are.

The study was published recently in Nature Scientific Reports.

20 minutes breathing exercise twice a day for four weeks

The volunteers did the exercise twice a day for four weeks, with each session lasting 20 minutes.

They breathed in for five seconds and then out for five seconds.

This simple routine boosted their heart rate variability and reduced amyloid-beta peptides in their blood.

When there are high levels of these peptides in the brain, it's believed to trigger the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

How does slow breathing help?

Your autonomic nervous system adjusts your heart rate and breathing based on your surroundings. It has two branches: sympathetic (fight-or-flight) and parasympathetic (rest-and-digest).

Fight-or-flight mode keeps the heart rate constant and breathing rapid.

Rest-and-digest mode fluctuates heartbeats, with shorter intervals during inhale and longer during exhale.

Deep breaths increase heart rate variability, signaling safety to the brain, and easing the shift to rest-and-digest mode.

How do breathing exercises help your nervous system stay calm?

As you age, your heart rate variability weakens, making it harder to access the restorative state of the parasympathetic nervous system.

Maintaining this access and heart rate variability may be crucial for a healthy brain as you grow older.

Just as bicep curls strengthen arm muscles, practicing conscious breathing can enhance heart rate variability, enabling your nervous system to remain more adept at relaxation.

Slow, intentional breathing mimics the benefits of deep sleep

According to the researchers, slow, intentional breathing may imitate the positive effects of deep sleep.

Deep sleep has been found to help clear neurotoxic waste products from the brain and nervous system faster.

These waste products are linked to the development of Alzheimer's disease.

So, practicing slow, deliberate breathing might be a way to support brain health and reduce the risk of Alzheimer's.

Scientific community divided on its effectiveness

The research has not been repeated with a larger group of patients yet, so it can't be said with surety if the positive effects will last in the long run.

The scientific community is divided on how well breathing techniques can match up to drug treatments in terms of effectiveness and reliability.

More studies are needed to understand it better.

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