Overbreathing | How Common Is Hyperventilation?
What is overbreathing?
(or alveolar hyperventilation), since it has the prefix "hyper-", is
breathing more air per minute than the medical norm. The values for
normal minute ventilation (or respiratory minute volume) at rest for a
70-kg man range from 4-6 L/min for older physiological textbooks and up
to 6-9 L/min for some modern textbooks. Obviously, anything that is
more 9-10 L/min is defined as "hyperventilation".
Hyperventilation causes hypocapnia (CO2 deficiency) in the alveoli
of the lungs and, if there is no ventilation-perfusion mismatch, in the
arterial blood and other body cells. In any case (too high or too low
arterial CO2 - arterial hypercapnia or hypocapnia), hyperventilation
always leads to tissue hypoxia (low oxygen levels in cells).
Official story about overbreathing
Hyperventilation, as nearly all medical sources imply
(e.g., Wikipedia, Emedicine.com, and many others), happens rarely, in
such cases as anxiety panic, or other more exotic situations. For
example, click here.
These medical sources cannot even provide the correct definition of
hyperventilation or "hyper" + "ventilation". What do we know about
exact numbers for ventilation at rest in people with chronic diseases?
Do healthy people have normal minute ventilation rates? How common is hyperventilation?
What is the real story related to hyperventilation?
This data explains
the pathological changes and high prevalence of chronic disorders (or
diseases of civilization), due to hyperventilation, in modern
population. Since modern people breathe about 2 times more than the
medical norm, they usually suffer from low CO2 values in the arterial
blood (ventilation-perfusion mismatch is not a very common condition).
Carbon dioxide is a potent dilator of blood vessels (vasodilator)
and is crucial for the
Bohr effect (O2 transport from red blood cells to tissues). As a result
of hyperventilation, modern people experience reduced oxygen levels in
the brain, heart, kidneys and all other vital organs. Cell hypoxia
causes or favors inflammatory conditions, production of free radicals
and suppression of the immune system. Apart from these effects, there
are devastating effects of the hyperventilation syndrome on the brain
due to hypocapnia or a lack of CO2, which has calming or sedative
properties on nerve cells. These and other hyperventilation-related
physiological effects promote pathological changes and the advance of
chronic health problems, such as
cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Is overbreathing common in ordinary people?
Chronic hyperventilation is very common for ordinary
people (or "normal subjects") these days. Their average minute
ventilation values are much greater than the normal value, which used
to be the norm about 80-100 years ago.
Minute ventilation (or respiratory minute volume, or flow of air) is
the volume of air which can be inhaled (inhaled minute volume) or
exhaled during 1 minute. It is used to measure one's degree of hyperventilation.
Prevalence of overbreathing in the modern population
Based on standard deviations for the above studies related to
normal subjects, we can state that over 90% of modern normal subjects
breathe more than the medical norms. Therefore, more than 90% of modern
normal subjects suffer from chronic hyperventilation. (One can
also note that authors of modern
books claim that we need to breathe more and expel more CO2.)
This YouTube video (on the right side) provides the definition
and info about prevalence of hyperventilation:
Technical note. If we consider Wikipedia or some other
sources saying 5-8 or 6-8 L/min as a normal range for minute
ventilation, then hyper means more than 8 L/min. With numerous studies
that found about 12 L/min as an average and bell-shape or Gaussian
distribution with standard deviation 2-3 L/min (also common), we know
that about 90% will be in the range from 10 to 14 or 9 to 15 L/min. The
remaining part will have less than the lower range 9 or 10, or higher
than the upper range that 14 or 15 L/min. Therefore, less than 10% of
subjects (even less than 5%) are within or less than the norm. We can
get the same result even if you assume 6-9 or 5-9 as normal values.
These are basics of the theory of probability.
There is a certain minumum number for minute ventilation at rest that provides maximum body oxygenation and amazing health benefits. This number in Liters per minute is provided right below here as your bonus content.
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