Dr. Larry Berkelhammer

Dr. Larry Berkelhammer

The purpose of this blog and the entire website is to provide evidence-based information on how to live a vibrant, meaningful life while living with chronic health challenges or other life challenges.

Every Tuesday I post a new, very brief video from my presentations or interviews. Every Friday this Q&A column appears.

Here is this week’s question:

THIS WEEK’S QUESTION:  Continuation of answer about breathing for health

ANSWER: Hyperventilation, Breath Holding, and Optimal Respiration

Shallow thoracic breathing results in respiratory rates as high as 20 to 25 BPM, and that can induce a catabolic state (breaking down). Slower diaphragmatic breathing produces an anabolic state (building up). Hyperventilation is characterized by rapid, shallow breathing, punctuated by frequent sighs. Hyperventilation results in blowing off too much CO2, which then increases blood alkalinity, and is one of the causes of hypertension, anxiety, and lightheadedness. In a type of reversible biochemical reaction, hyperventilation tends to trigger anxiety just as anxiety can trigger hyperventilation.

Breath-holding is common to many of us when we are concentrating on a tedious task. Although I have not been able to find documentation for this, it seems to be common knowledge among my colleagues that breath-holding on a chronic basis is a likely contributor to cardiac dysrhythmias. Some colleagues have agreed with me that breath-holding can even contribute to structural damage to the mitral valve. Shallow thoracic breathing increases the heart rate and blood pressure. One colleague told me that she believes the reason for her damaged mitral valve was that she had been chronically holding her breath whenever she felt any anxiety.

It is quite possible that she had also had some genetic predisposition to mitral valve problems or that the etiology of the mitral damage was a virus or other pathogen. Possibly, the unhealthy chronic breath-holding, may have simply been the last straw.

This website is offered as a free public service, supplying information that has been found helpful to certain people living with chronic health challenges or issues related to wellbeing. No treatment is offered on this website. The advice is general, and may or may not apply to your individual situation, and is not a substitute for psychotherapy or medical treatment.

What questions do you have about living a life of mindfulness-based mastery or about the relationship between the mind and health or wellbeing?

Just scroll down and type your question in the comment box below. An answer to your specific question may not appear in this column. The reason for that is I wait until I get a certain number of related questions, then I pick one that covers them all and I answer that one. People attending my presentations asked most of the questions appearing in this column, and I repeat them here so you may benefit.