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How daily breathing exercises may help lower Alzheimer’s disease risk

May. 7, 2023 Medical News Today

Breathing exercises done for 20 minutes two times a day helped decrease peptides associated with Alzheimer’s disease in the blood, according to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Researchers say the findings indicate that these daily exercises could potentially reduce the risk of developing this form of dementia.

In he study, participants used a biofeedback unit while completing breathing exercises for four weeks. Researchers clipped a heart monitor onto the ear and connected it to a laptop in front of the participant.

There were 108 participants, with half aged 18 to 30 and half aged 55 to 80.

Half the participants listened to calming music or thought of calming images, such as a beach scene or a walk in the park. They also viewed a heart rate monitor on the laptop screen to ensure their heart rate remained steady.

The second group of participants paced their breathing to match the pacer on the laptop. When a square rose, they inhaled. When it dropped, they exhaled. This exercise was designed to increase breathing-induced oscillations in their heart rate. Their heart rates rose during inhale and dipped during the exhale.

The researchers completed blood tests before the start of the breathing exercises and again after four weeks.

They looked at two peptides – amyloid 40 and 42. Scientists say that they believe an accumulation of these peptides triggers the Alzheimer’s disease process. A higher level of the peptides in the blood could indicate a greater risk of developing the disease.

What are amyloid beta peptides?

Amyloid beta peptides are the suspected “bad guy” in Alzheimer’s disease, according to Dr. David Merrill, an adult and geriatric psychiatrist and director of the Pacific Neuroscience Institute’s Pacific Brain Health Center at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in California.

They may be produced in the body due to stress. If so, it would make sense that relaxation breathing would lower the levels.

“Even better would be mitigating the stressors in the first place. Healthy body, healthy mind,” Merrill told Medical News Today.

“The accumulation of amyloid-beta peptides in the brain is the first step in Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis,” said Dr. Martin J. Sadowski, a professor of neurology, psychiatry, biochemistry, and molecular pharmacology at NYU Langone Health in New York.

“This process takes a number of years, and it is believed to be modulated by several factors, which remain unidentified,” he told Medical News Today.

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