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How to measure breathing rate using stress free breath holding time test (oxygenation index)

Our stress free breath holding time test (oxygenation index), done after usual exalation, reflects body oxygenation and minute ventilation. Sick people have deep and frequent breathing with low body oxygenation (less than 20 s), while in healthy people breathing is light and tiny, but body oxygenation is over 40 s... 

Most breathing parameters require special measuring devices. We cannot measure even own breathing frequency at rest since, as soon as we pay attention to our breathing, it immediately changes (it usually becomes deeper and slower). However, body oxygen content can be defined using a stress-free BHT (breath holding time) test. After your usual outhale, pinch the nose and, using a clock or watch, find out your stress-free breath holding time. Note that you should not gasp for air after the test: it is done only after first signs of stress or discomfort.

Since body oxygenation is low for all chronic diseases (e.g., cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, etc.), this test, according to numerous medical studies, is the best and simplest ever-known health test.

The main factor that defines body oxygenation is one’s breathing rate or minute ventilation (how much air the person breathes in one minute).

If one breathes in accordance with the medical norm (about 6 l of air per minute), their BHT should be about 40 s. In accordance with physiological laws, when we breathe more air, the BHT or body oxygenation becomes smaller. Why? At normal breathing our arterial blood is almost completely saturated with oxygen (up to about 98%). Hence by breathing more we cannot improve blood oxygenation. But since we exhale or lose too much CO2, arteries and arterioles become constricted (CO2-induced vasoconstriction) and less blood is released in capillaries or tissues due to the suppressed Bohr effect (CO2 is a chemical catalyser of O2 release in tissues). This effect is easy to experience by voluntary hyperventilation: we feel dizzy and can even faint since brain oxygenation is reduced almost 2 times due to constrictions of arteries leading to the brain.

Hence, if a person breathes twice more air than the norm or about 12 l/min, the body oxygenation will be about 20 s. For most people with various chronic conditions, the BHT is between 10 and 20 s meaning that they breathe 2-4 times air than the norm.

Severely sick, terminally ill and hospitalised patients usually have less than 10 s of oxygen in the body. Hence, they breathe at least for 4 people.

It is possible to change one’s breathing pattern and improve body oxygenation. It usually takes weeks or months of practicing breathing exercises and following healthy life style factors that make breathing easy and oxygenation higher.

There is only one therapy that uses body oxygenation as the main test: the Buteyko breathing method developed by Soviet physiologist Konstantin Buteyko, PhD, MD and approved by Soviet Health Ministry for treatment of asthma and heart disease. Restoration of normal breathing naturally normalized body oxygenation and eliminates symptoms of many chronic diseasesBusiness Management Articles, as clinical experience of about 200 Russian MDs testify.

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Dr. Artour Rakhimov is a health educator in self-oxygenation, breathing and the Buteyko self-oxygenation medical therapy. He is the author of books and the educational website devoted to natural self-oxygenation, breathing education and breathing retraining.

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