Can a Simple Breathing Exercise Reduce Your Alzheimer’s Risk?

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Woman engaged in a breathing exercise
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Can a simple breathing exercise reduce your risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease?

Researchers at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology recently found that participants who used a breathing technique for 20 minutes a day twice a day over four weeks had lower levels of compounds known as amyloid-beta peptides circulating in their blood.

Higher levels of such compounds in the brain have been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. So, the breathing exercise might reduce the presence of a major threat to your brain’s health.

The breathing technique itself couldn’t be easier: You simply inhale for a count of five, then exhale for a count of five.

The researchers who led the study, published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, offered some theories as to why the breathing technique is associated with a decreased presence of amyloid beta.

They note that it is unclear whether the breathing exercises decrease the production of amyloid beta, or increase the clearance of amyloid beta. However, they say the former is more likely.

In a Healthline recap of the study, Dr. Susan Kohlhaa — executive director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK — said the researchers appeared to find that the breathing exercises lowered heart rate, and this in turn helped reduce the accumulation of the amyloid-beta peptides.

As Kohlhaa told Healthline:

“This research suggests that a system called the noradrenergic pathway, involved in the ‘fight or flight’ response, could be involved but more investigation is needed here.”

Kohlhaa says additional studies might help determine “what specific mechanisms are involved and how they influence overall risk of dementia.” She added that more research is needed before experts can determine how breathing exercises might help people over the long run.

For more on reducing your dementia risk, check out “Is This Blood Pressure Ideal for Preventing Dementia?

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