The Respiratory System- Features and Functions
While there are several parts of the respiratory system, the set of structures that allows us to breathe, there are in fact three basic elements of which it is comprised. The first part of the respiratory system includes the airways through which oxygen enters the body. This includes the nose, mouth and the substructures that connect each to the second part of the system, the lungs. Oxygen enters the lungs and is then released into the blood stream, allowing the cells throughout our bodies to become oxygenated and fully functional. The third main part of this system is the respiratory musculature that controls lung expansion and contraction, helps regulate how quickly or slowly we breathe, and enables our lungs to take in air and release it as necessary.The system that allows us to breathe and is needed to live, whether breathing is natural or mechanical, is intricate, involved, and impacts every aspect of our lives in immeasurable ways. Not only does having enough air in our lungs allow us to breathe, but that proverbial breath of fresh air feeds our minds, cognitive abilities, and frankly, the ability to enjoy our lives. Anyone who has ever been affected by allergies or a stuffy nose, knows that being unable to breathe unassisted can be downright frustrating, both for the sufferer and those with whom they live.It goes without saying then, that conditions that compromise the ability to breathe, and far surpass allergy attacks in intensity, scope, and severity, can be not only challenging, but set off a cascade of life altering events. Left untreated, respiratory illnesses can wreak havoc not only through a host of system- specific diseases, but through cognitive impairments that may be prove both dangerous and potentially fatal.
The Importance of Cognitive Health
The ability to breathe is an integral part of every aspect of our lives and the ability to think clearly is no exception. That is why proper air flow is necessary in order to be able to produce coherent and cogent thoughts, make good, unimpulsive decisions based on careful study and deliberation, and in general, do the right thing. Optimal cognitive health requires us to be able to breathe as freely as possible. And nothing is a testament to this fact like impaired cognition due to obstructed airways or emotional states that alter our respiratory rate.
Risk Factors for Poor Cognitive Ability and Decline
It is no secret that our bodies experience some form of slowing down as we age. This happens to the healthiest and weakest amongst us. So while the simple act of aging serves as a risk factor for cognitive deterioration, there are other risk factors to be mindful of. It is vital that we remember that impaired breathing can lead to impaired conduct that in and of itself, can meet disastrous ends. Alcoholism Imbibing on occasion is not necessarily a bad thing, nor should it be misconstrued as brain damaging. Excessive, repetitive, or maladaptive drinking for whatever reason, is really the concern here. Despite the different tolerances each one of us may have, we all, whether we acknowledge it or not, are affected by the alcohol we consume. As we drink more, our minds become fuzzy, the ability to think clearly becomes difficult as the alcohol hits the impulse control centers in our brains, and the chances of becoming dizzy, tired, labile, and otherwise impaired rises exponentially. If drinking becomes an ongoing habit, brain damage is sure to follow. More drinking yields more chances of injury related to drinking, yields higher risks of cognitive impairment that can lead one to make subsequent unhealthy decisions. In addition, because alcohol can wear down the protective lining within the lungs, alcoholism can also increase your chances of developing lung disease. AnxietyWhile we all get anxious from time to time, being anxious on any sort of regular basis can make you feel unsettled, imbalanced, and out of sorts. Anxiety attacks, generalized anxiety disorder, and even depression, can bring on symptoms that mimic those of a heart attack, affecting respiratory rates and any ability to think clearly. The brutal cycle that follows the onset of anxiety-related symptoms often includes becoming anxious about why you are feeling sweaty, breathing fast, and getting warmer, and then worrying that you are going to die because your heart rate is through the roof and you now fear that death is on the horizon. You end up getting nervous about the symptoms that manifest because of your anxiety, making this a cyclical nightmare. In summary, anxiety can alter the pace at which you breathe, making you short of breath, more anxious because your brain thinks no air is coming in, and lead you to pursue ways that may not be the healthiest, in order to find the calm you desperately need. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Respiratory insufficiency is the telltale marker of COPD. With its limited airflow, airway inflammation, and progressive course, it can be incredibly difficult for patients with this disease to inhale deeply and therefore, oxygenate their blood and brain. Without proper oxygen flow to the brain, cerebral tissue is starved and cannot function in any normal or healthy manner. As the brain is depleted of its stores, decreased airflow can cause individuals to become more irritable, unfocused, and reclusive. It simply becomes too difficult to talk, too challenging to interact with others, and with limited socialization and increased dependence on others, too arduous to keep up with medical appointments and treatments.
How The Ability to Breathe Affects the Mind
Often, we are told to breathe “in with the good and out with the bad.” Parents have imbued this wisdom to their children, therapists often encourage their clients to follow this advice, and worldwide, it seems that bringing good air in and sending bad air out, is a way of bringing balance back to one’s life. Whether we are ill, nervous, scared, or engaging in unhealthy habits such as smoking or drinking, it is incumbent upon all of us to remember that we function at our best when we bring the good air in and keep the bad air out. And though this may sound a bit simplistic, there is wisdom within this advice. Because while we are focused on our respiratory functions, we must also maintain our convictions to improved health and the belief that we can regulate our feelings, health habits, and the very air we breath. A healthy respiratory system brings about improved cognition because of the science that supports it. When we live our lives with our safety and welfare in mind, we create better health, better moods, better cognition and the joys of truly breathing in a breath of fresh air. Respiratory issues as well as cognitive decline are situations the public at large is likely to experience at some point in their lives. Whether you are seeking care for yourself or a loved one, Dr. Shahen Kurestian, DC in Glendale, California and his professional staff at Body Systems Wellness can help you develop coping mechanisms as well as breathing exercises that will help you feel strong, vital, and focused, while breathing easier than you have in a very long time.