Aspire to respire

By • Published: October 5th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Want to reduce strain on your brain?

Don’t hold your breath. Literally.

A few moments of willful oxygen deprivation might be uneventful, but taken to the extreme, there’s evidence the brain’s biochemistry actually changes.

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden studied professional divers who are trained to hold their breath for several minutes at a time.

They discovered that while these divers were holding their breath, amounts of a protein that can signal brain damage rose in their bloodstream.

The presence of the protein, S-one-hundred-B [S100B], was short-lived, and never reached levels associated with brain injuries.

In cases of serious damage, S-one-hundred-B skyrockets and stays elevated for longer than twenty-four hours.

In this study, researchers asked nine competitive divers who routinely push their underwater limits to lie on their backs and stop breathing for as long as possible… a condition known as static apnea.

The average time they held their breath? Five minutes and thirty-five seconds. The longest time was six minutes and forty-three seconds.

Researchers took blood samples at intervals during the process.

The marker for brain damage was elevated in seven of the nine divers, but levels fell back to normal within two hours.

Scientists are intrigued because during short bouts of non-breathing, S-one-hundred-B breaches the blood-brain barrier… a protective mechanism that keeps toxins and other bad things from jumping between our blood and our brains.

Even people with sleep apnea have been shown to have higher levels of S-one-hundred-B in the morning.

Researchers recommend further studies of the relationship between apnea and brain biochemistry.

The findings could be breathtaking.