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  • Writer's pictureJanice Tracey

Alzheimer's, Daily breathing exercises may help

Daily breathing exercises reduce the stress response in the body which is at the root of many of today's health conditions.

Women with eyes closed, head slightly tilted back, practicing breathwork
Older woman breathing

In a new study, 4 weeks of simple breathwork, inhaling for 5 seconds then exhaling for 5 seconds, for 20 minutes twice a day , led to a decrease in Alzheimer's related proteins in the blood.

“This is one of the first studies looking into whether breathing exercises could change levels of the protein amyloid, a hallmark protein of Alzheimer’s,” said Dr. Susan Kohlhaas, executive director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK. “The researchers found that breathing techniques that lowered heart rate also seem to reduce the accumulation of amyloid and tau as measured in the blood.”
“Whilst this study is interesting, there is more to be done before we can draw firm conclusions about how it may benefit people in the long run,” said Kohlhaas.

Lots more research is needed but the correlation was strongly identified.

Can you really future proof your health?

As we get older, most of us have something we fear, health wise. For many, me included, the rise in memory loss conditions is frightening and it’s a condition that hits more women than men. Hence my interest as most of my clients are women in midlife and beyond.

By making targeted changes, you can certainly give yourself a fighting chance, up the ante and lessen the odds of poor mobility, dementia related conditions, diabetes, stroke, heart and other quality of life limiting conditions we are up against.

We try to future proof everything else. We plan for our financial future by saving and investing. We take out house insurance and car insurance against accidents that might happen? And some of us even have medical insurance that will cover intervention if the worst happens.

All the research is clear on this. Modifiable lifestyle factors make a difference. It's your insurance policy,

What are modifiable lifestyle factors?

Modifiable lifestyle factors refer to the way we live our lives and the things we can change in order to make a positive or negative impact on our health.

  • Nicotine use

  • Alcohol consumption

  • Stress Management

  • Sleep quality and duration

  • Weight/BMI

  • Nutrition/Diet

  • Physical activity

  • Social engagement

  • Cognitive stimulation

The big ones we hear about, mainly from the GP, if we are cruising towards a health condition such as diabetes, or have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. They'll ask about diet, weight, smoking, activity, alcohol consumption and stress and suggest some modifications. This is often when a client comes to me, feeling overwhelmed with the pressure of having to make changes. And once we get started, it's amazing how easy it all seems when someone is supporting you each step of the journey.

By investing in some simple diet and lifestyle measures you could massively change your health trajectory.

Can breathing exercises really help?

The practice of slow controlled breathwork has so many key benefits. Where there is stress (in today's world that seems to be all day every day) the stress response in our body can cause inflammation, pain, irregular hormone production, confused immune system (too weak or too strong), low energy, irritability, brain fog, poor sleep, weight gain and so many more symptoms.

I always encourage weight loss clients to down regulate their stress response by practicing a series of short slow breathing exercises multiple times a day. These shorter bursts are sufficient to switch your body from the parasympathetic (fight & flight state) to the parasympathetic (rest and repair state).

It's like a reset switch and the message signals "If she has time to breath slowly, there's no need for fight or flight". That opens up a whole new set of rest and repair responses in your body i.e. better health. Your body can go about its' business of burning fat not storing it, digesting food efficiently, making hormones and balancing your immune system.

And it's not just about weight loss. Almost all of our modern lifestyle health conditions can be improved by downregulating the stress response.

Breathing exercises alone are not the answer

Don't shoot the messenger. I just want to be clear here. You can't just breath your way into good health.

Breathing exercises will only scratch the surface if you are still eating a crap diet, having a sedentary lifestyle, allowing stress to pervade your life untethered, and not getting enough quality sleep. (Clue to all the areas I support clients with).

Having a daily breathing exercise doesn't remove the stressors (financial pressures, family stress, job issues etc). However by having a daily and regular breathing practice, you manage how your body responds to stress which is where the issue arises.

Best breathing exercises

Here are two of my favourite breathing exercises. I practice these regularly throughout the day and to help with sleep.

Diagram of box describing box breathing.  Breath in for 4, hold for 4, Breath out for 4 hold for 4.
Box Breathing

Diagram showing the 4-7-8 breathing exercise.  breath in through nose for 4, hold for 7 and out through mouth for 8
4-7-8 breathing exercise

TOP TIP Don't wait until you think you are stressed. In the fast paced life we live today, assume you are stressed and BREATHE.

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