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To counteract Alzheimer's … breathe!

To counteract Alzheimer's … breathe!

May 30, 2023
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What if they told you that to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's it is enough ... to breathe? This is precisely what a very recent scientific research published in the prestigious journal Scientific Report of the Nature group seems to affirm thanks to the work of an American team from the University of California (Min et al, Scientific Reports, 2023).

Alzheimer's, causes and treatments

Alzheimer's is a neurodegenerative disease whose risk increases with age. Since the therapies available today are not capable of curing Alzheimer's but only delaying it and attenuating its symptoms, more and more scientific studies are focusing on understanding the factors that can increase the risk of developing this disease and the factors that, on the contrary, can provide protection. Alzheimer's disease is characterized by the accumulation of particular aggregates of amyloid beta and tau proteins in the brain. However, the presence of these aggregates is necessary but not sufficient to trigger Alzheimer's, in fact neuroinflammation must also be present. In any case, it seems clear that implementing all possible strategies to reduce the accumulation of beta amyloid and tau proteins is certainly a protective choice, as well as eating foods rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances to counteract neuroinflammation. The study we're talking about today shows that special attention to breathing can help reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's.

Alzheimer, can it also be a matter of the heart?

Scientists have assumed that in our healthy body there is a balance between the sympathetic nervous system, connected to the state of wakefulness and action, and the parasympathetic nervous system, associated with relaxation. In particular, a good functioning of the parasympathetic nervous system is also connected to a high variability of the heart rhythm, which represents the ability of the heart and the body to adapt to external stimuli. Instead, when there is an imbalance and the sympathetic nervous system prevails, a reduction in cardiac variability is observed with an increase in stress and anxiety. Well, increased action of the sympathetic nervous system is also associated with increased levels of aggregates of beta amyloid and tau proteins and a reduction in the body's ability to get rid of these toxic aggregates. Hence the idea of acting on respiration to increase cardiac variability and observe a change in the levels of neurotoxic aggregates.

Alzheimer's and the importance of breathing, here's the study

Scientists recruited 108 volunteers, half of whom were aged between 18 and 30 and the other half between 55 and 80 years old. All volunteers were in good physical and mental health. Study participants, regardless of age, were randomly divided into two groups. The first group had to increase heart rate variability. This goal was achieved by asking volunteers to perform breathing exercises lasting 20 minutes, twice a day for one month. Specifically, the volunteers were asked to exhale for 5 seconds and then inhale for another 5 seconds and so on, for 20 minutes. This slow breathing actually led to an increase in heart rate variability, which is related to breathing. In fact, during inhalation the heart rate increases while with exhalation it decreases. The other half of the volunteers, on the other hand, had the aim of reducing heart rate variability. Using a monitor that reported the heart rate, the volunteers were asked to keep the heart rate as stable as possible, thinking about pleasant images or listening to music, the system was left to the individual but the important thing was that they managed to obtain no variations, or at least very small changes, in heart rhythm. Well, what emerged is that those, both young and old, who had performed the breathing exercises and who had thus increased their heart rate variability had a decrease in amyloid beta proteins and tau in the blood. It should be emphasized that instead an increase in these proteins in the blood is considered a risk factor for developing Alzheimer's in future years.


This study is still in its infancy and much more research needs to be done. Indeed, it is important to understand the reasons for the decrease in amyloid beta proteins in the blood. Is it a reduction in the production of these neurotoxic substances or an increase in the body's ability to get rid of dangerous aggregates? Then, it would be very interesting to carry out the study on a much larger sample of the population. In the meantime, however, the results obtained are really interesting and indicate that small meditation sessions, with breath control, bring important benefits, not only helping the body better manage stress and anxiety, but also protecting the brain.

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