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How healthy is your breathing?

By Flavia Nassaka

Physicians advise us to breathe a little bit slower

Has someone ever asked you to take a deep breath? Alternatively, have you ever asked someone to do so? Taking a deep breath is a common relaxation technique used when someone is angry, anxious, tense, or has suffered a panic attack.  Doctors say deep breathing increases supply of oxygen to the brain allowing the body to calm down. That possibly mean if you took deep breaths often, you could possibly be calmer most of the time.

Dr Micheal Manyindo says the reason we breathe is to get oxygen needed in every part of the body especially the brain which is the body control center. With no oxygen in the brain, then all the other parts of the body are affected. He says breathing properly can boost the body’s immunity to diseases. He advises people to train themselves to breath in the right way all the time.

Unfortunately, managing breathing is the last thing anyone thinks about. Infact we only get to think about breathing during times when one is struggling to or has completely failed to breath.


Dr. Rebecca Nantanda is familiar with this. She is a pediatrician and she treats children with breathing diseases at Mulago National referral Hospital in Kampala. Nantanda says the way you draw breath can affect your physical and mental wellbeing.

“If one is breathing, you shouldn’t hear that they are breathing. If there is noisy breathing, this may mean that there is an obstruction in the airways,” she says.

She says anything that affects the lungs or rib cage can cause an increased breathe rate.

“In people experiencing an asthma attack, the airways become narrow making them breathe faster in order to meet their oxygen needs,” she explains. She says the normal breathing rate depends on one’s age. Young children tend to breathe much faster compared to adults.  When we are younger, we all take deep, relaxing breaths. But as we age, the way we breathe changes as fear and stress set in. One starts having short sharp breaths to help prepare for the challenge you will have to fight. Prolonged periods of stress mean we constantly breathe like this leading to poor exchange of oxygen and carbondioxide in the bloodstream and in the end the body will be deprived of vital gases.

She says that for babies below two months, their normal breathing rate should be below 60 times per minute whereas for children aged 2 to 12 months, the normal breathing rate should be below 50 times per minute.  For older children, below 40 times per minute while at rest yet what’s normal for adults is 30 times per minute when at rest.

Breathing very fast means that there’s a problem with the lungs. She says the fast rate may mean that one has an infection. This makes the lungs stiffer, prompting need for more effort to breath leading to a high rate of breathing.

However she says you should only get worried when you breathe faster while at rest but when exercising, you will need a lot of oxygen to meet the exercise demands and the breathing rate will automatically increase.

Dr Manyindo says people can be taught to do away with poor breathing habits, like shallow breathing, but it requires practice and exercises.

“It’s healthy to breathe a lit bit slower. If you train yourself to do this, it will have benefits for not just your heart but the brain too.

“If you are breathing and the belly is expanding rather than sinking in, that’s what we call diaphragm breathing,” he says. He encourages people to breathe with their abdomen for it strengthens the diaphragm muscles leading to breathing more efficiently. The diaphragm is a large sheet-like muscle that lies at the bottom of the chest cavity.

Though this kind of breathing is more useful during stressful times, he advises people to train themselves to do this all the time.

He gives the following tips on how to breathe well:

Inhale deeply

Exhale slowly and completely to empty the lungs and activate your diaphragm

Hold for a moment to allow oxygen to saturate the cells

Whenever possible breathe in and out from the nose

Don’t get worried when the breathing rate changes while resting since oxygen needs are less when asleep leading to calm breathing

Doctors say breathing correctly means that our bodies are being supplied with the right amount of oxygen, replenishing our brain to improve the functioning of other body parts. If you are not breathing correctly, your body will lack the needed oxygen, leading to a host of health challenges.

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