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Breathing is an involuntary action, coordinated by respiratory centres deep in the brain. It is not really possible to die by voluntarily holding one’s breath, as without practice and training, apnoea (not breathing) cannot be sustained for more than 1-2 minutes. This is because “breath holding” results in accumulation of carbon dioxide in the blood and a drop in the blood pH. The respiratory centre in the brain is automatically stimulated. Breathing sets in.
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Sleep apnoea (cessation of breathing during sleep) can occur in adults, usually middle-aged overweight males with a thick neck. It can occur in all ages and both sexes, especially if the tonsils or adenoids are enlarged, there is a deviated nasal septum or GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease). Sleep apnoea can cause high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and daytime drowsiness. Academic performance and decision making at work can suffer. There may be daytime lapses in concentration, which can cause accidents.
Mild cases of sleep apnoea respond to weight loss and exercise. Severe cases may require CPAP (Continuous Positive Airways Pressure), or surgery.
Reactive Airways Disease or name bronchial asthma is a condition where the smaller airways in the lungs constrict when exposed to many triggers. These may be a viral or bacterial infection, pollen, food, or odours in the air. As the breathing pipes become smaller, the outflow of air is obstructed and there is whistling sound with each breath. The person may start coughing vigorously or panic as they feel the air supply is being cut off.
This can be tackled with nebulisers, inhalers and rotahalers. These devices deliver dilating medication directly to the breathing pipes. The effect is almost instantaneous and there are practically no side effects.
Our airways are designed to filter out dust and other harmful particles. Unfortunately our inbuilt air purification system can only filter out particles of 2·5 µm (PM2 ) in diameter. The smaller – found around us both indoors and out – can enter the lungs. Indoor pollution comes from the use of solid fuels, such as coal, wood, or charcoal (even when it is only used to heat water), burning rubbish and waste, particularly plastic. Cigarette smoke harms the smoker and the polluting particles secondarily affect others in the environment. Agarbattis release many polluting chemicals as do mosquito repelling coils, mats and liquids.
Industrialisation and urbanisation have? resulted in fossil fuels being used in factories and for transport. Smoke from factories is sent high into the sky through industrial chimneys, but that just means that the particles spread over a wider area. The petrol and diesel vehicles on the road also emit particulate material and harmful gases. Seven million deaths occur annually because of air pollution alone. Pregnant women and children are particularly vulnerable. Constant exposure to a polluted environment affects long-term growth and cognitive ability in children. If we keep polluting the environment like this, our IQ levels will be affected.
Eventually, constant exposure to pollutants over many years can also result in COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) with breathlessness with the slightest activity. This too is treated with nebulisers and inhalers.
• We all breathe but this does not mean we breathe correctly. Lungs need regular breathing exercises and correction of faulty breathing techniques. Yoga corrects the technique.
• Exercise early in morning when pollution is less or indoors in a gym.
• Keep indoor plants in your home. They reduce particulate matter and pollutants.
Source: The Telegraph (India, Kolkata)
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