One of the body’s most primary functions is breathing… though most of us go about our lives rarely thinking about it. Dr. Margaret Chesney, director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at UC San Francisco says, “it’s the first thing we do, and the last thing we do. It’s really important, but we take it for granted.” And by properly breathing, experts say we can reduce stress and anxiety, improve mental focus, and help control high blood pressure. Chesney and other experts suggest that many people overtime develop a habit of not breathing deeply enough, and become unaware of the fact that they are holding their breath for short periods when under stress. Women are more likely to “under-breathe.”

Breathing delivers oxygen to tissues, takes carbon dioxide out of the body and regulates the acidity of our blood. Chesney believes there is lots of evidence to suggest that breathing is also deeply connected to our emotions and overall health. Currently, she and her husband, Dr. David Anderson, an adjunct professor of nephrology at UC San Francisco are studying a group of women who are at risk for high blood pressure. They hope that by teaching patients to practice deep, “mindful” breathing, the women can lower high carbon dioxide levels and reduce high blood pressure.

Chesney suggests the next time you are in a traffic jam try turning off the talk radio, put on some music and focus on slow, relaxed deep breathing. She believes this kind of situation “is a chance to get either very angry and huff and puff, or maybe stop and breathe.”     San Jose Mercury News    2/24/13

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