Wednesday, 6 March 2013

VO2 MAX - THE BREATHING POWER OF A SMOKER


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VO2 MAX is the measurement of heart and lung performance. It registers the body’s maximum capability of sending oxygen from the lungs to the muscles for energy production. It involves the heart’s ability to pump oxygen-rich blood to the muscles, and the efficiency of the muscles to uptake the oxygen, which can be utilised during exercise. VO2 is usually experienced in the ability to walk, run, swim etc. continuously for more than 15 minutes. After the age of 30 there is a decline in function at the rate of 1% per year. This equates to a slow-down in cardiovascular and lung fitness, and the development of the loss of muscle and bone tissue, as well as joint stiffness.  Add to the top of the list the smoking factor and the respiratory problems caused by damaged lung cells - smokers often have 10 -15% less oxygen in their bloodstream than non-smokers. This is because when you smoke you inhale carbon monoxide molecules which bond to the blood cells. The impact of this reduces the blood cells’ ability to carry oxygen. The body then reacts by producing more blood cells which thickens the blood, slows the circulation; and forces the heart to strain and work harder to receive the oxygen it needs to keep the muscles vital and the organs running. Now connect to that all the other deficiencies and harm to the body caused by cigarettes, and we find a very unhealthy state of affairs. If you suffer from obesity, and have excess fat layers around the chest wall and abdomen, you will have a restricted lung volume, which naturally affects breathing. And the longer you have been a smoker, the more pressure your heart is under to work harder, and the more congestion you have in your lungs.

Poisonous fine crystal powder known as uric acid can be found in oxygen-deficient blood. And substantial research has found that a shortage of oxygen in the blood could well be the starting point of a breakdown in the immune system, and possibly the single greatest cause of all disease. Physiological and environmental factors such as air and water pollution, smoking, alcohol, medication, processed foods, lack of exercise, anxiety, stress, and physical trauma can all steal vital oxygen from the body. All body cells need adequate oxygen to function effectively. The brain requires oxygen to process information, and the cells need to metabolize food in the correct way in order to gain vital nutrients and eliminate toxins and waste through oxidation. Double Noble Peace Prize winner Dr. Warburg, discovered that when cells lack the right amount of oxygen the glucose in them begins to ferment, creating susceptibility to yeast imbalances, parasites, bacteria, and microbes. He has proved that cancer is a disease created by suffocation of the cells. It is very important to understand that cancer cells prefer an environment with decreased oxygen.

The human body is not designed for the low level oxygen intake that many people are now subject to. Improving the situation - which is what cessation is all about, can increase energy, help the heart rate, aid cholesterol levels, galvanize cell metabolism, boost cell turnover, help with blood lipids, joint flexibility, high blood pressure, loss of bone minerals, improved muscle mass, and even fat loss. It can assist our immune system by deactivating viruses, bacteria, and other damaging toxins; and it can set us on the road to improved vitality, clarity of thought, better skin, great looks, and a positive mental frame of mind.

Air is our life force and breathing is a two-way street of taking in life-giving oxygen (fuel) and expelling carbon dioxide (waste). Breathing supplies our cells with oxygen and removes carbon dioxide and wastes. (Carbon dioxide is a product of cell oxidation). Oxygen is extracted from the air in the lungs and passed into the blood through the walls of the lungs’ minute air sacs (the alveoli). Tiny capillaries and blood vessels take away the waste products in the blood back to our heart and lungs where the air and wastes are exhaled and exchanged for fresh oxygen as we draw in the next breath.

BREATHING POWER

Most people do not use breathing power to their full capacity, and smokers’ breathing power is usually already diminished and only gets poorer as the years go on. There are many smokers who suffer from breathlessness. Physical activities are often demanding when smokers experience shortness of breath and even chest ache. Smoking adversely influences oxygen uptake which distresses every system in the body. In addition to keeping us alive, breathing helps lift blood from the lower body towards the heart, massages the liver and stomach, aids the process of digestion, and ventilates the tissues.

Oxygen is the most vital element in the human body. Around 90% of our energy and all bodily actions are regulated by it, so when it gets run down, our bodies react and begin to deteriorate. And it is not only what we do directly that effects our intake – outdoor air quality is rapidly declining. Sadly, it is not what it was in previous generations. To begin with, the percentage of oxygen in the air has severely declined – car and lorry exhaust fumes, aeroplane emissions, factory pollution, chemical plants, agricultural pesticides, fertilizers and deforestation are all on the increase, with many countries not signing up for, or interested in lowering output. In some regions where the atmospheric pollution is high, the oxygen carrying blood capacity of a healthy individual is degraded to that of a pack a day smoker. So, if you are living in a busy urban area, or near any factories, airports, or chemical plants and are a heavy smoker, you can see the equation.

One of the categories that pollution most harshly affects is smokers. While the majority of us are powerless to change the air which surrounds us, we can be affirmative, and do our utmost to improve our body’s ability to utilise whatever fresh air is available. Indoor pollution is probably something which most of us would not have considered. Dust, bacteria, viruses, mold spores, pollen, dust mites and cigarette smoke can actually make our internal environment more polluted than outside! Daily indoor living, sleeping and resting should always be in a well ventilated environment with a good supply of fresh oxygen, so be sure to open the windows regularly, and try to keep one open in the rooms you are spending time in. We need negative ions (negative charges made by oxygen molecules) to benefit us and lead us to optimum levels of health and fitness.

A home air purifier with a Hepa air filter is a must. You may be able to buy one with a built-in ioniser. Units do not have to be expensive – you could just have a small one, the size of a small fan heater. Filters have to be changed every few months, and you will get quite a shock to see how black they can be! Making a change to better quality air can start to show benefits even after a week. Indoor oxygen levels can also be helped by Mother Nature and the plant kingdom can be called upon to act as an air filtration system to help zap up the toxins and stale air inside your home, and replace them with pure oxygen and healthy humidity. Plants which are suitable are: aloe vera, English ivy, bamboo palm and Chinese evergreens, so try to put one in each room. Exercise increases our oxygen intake so we must have a daily routine encompassing some form, even if it is just a regular walk. Instead of driving, try walking to the shops, or the local school, or the library - there are numerous ideas to establish a new commitment. Look at the different exercise ideas listed in my book, "The Winning Way to Quit Smoking" to give you food for thought. And always aim to spend sometime in the sun, as it encourages oxygen activity in the tissues.

THE OXYGEN ADVANTAGE

Smokers who are on the path to cutting down and quitting will find this part of the protocol one of their greatest supports. When you have cut down or achieved the status of “non-smoker”, your new respiratory system usage will give you both mental and physical support and strength. By managing your breathing pattern you can find a general improvement in all body functions, and you can control the subtle energies within the body to ultimately gain full command over the mind. The mind benefits can be so strong that when you feel the pangs of breaking your resolution, you really feel empowered, and will find it easier to “Just Say No”!

Children and babies breathe naturally using full abdominal breath. By the time adulthood is reached however, most people have lost it. My theory is that the build-up of all the stresses, strains, struggling, disappointments and traumas in life create mental tension which hinders breathing capability. 

Unless they are exponents of various disciplines such as yoga, for example, most people only employ shallow breathing which is done from the chest by lifting the ribcage upward and outward, only using the top part of their lungs and never utilizing the abdomen. It is astonishing to know that many people use only one-third to one-fifth of their potential lung capacity. – So basically, they are only getting a fraction of the benefits, as they are literally depriving themselves of vital oxygen and prohibiting the elimination of harmful waste products. Most smokers come into this category as the only time smokers take deep breaths is when they are inhaling cigarettes. 


INHALATION AND EXHALATION

The diaphragm is the main muscle of respiration, and by working in tandem with the movement of the ribcage, air is inhaled and exhaled. To check the status of your current breathing capacity you can put your hand on your abdomen. - Proper breathing is governed by contracting the diaphragm (a sheet of muscle located under the lungs and ribcage) which flattens out to let in the maximum air. As it goes down, the abdomen expands as you draw in fresh air through the nose then through the trachea and bronchial tubes, into numerous small air sacs inside the lungs. Trying to work on this part of the protocol will seem difficult at first, but done gradually and over time, it is possible. By learning to breathe evenly and deeply, and by practising regularly, your new system of relaxed breathing will eventually become habitual.

BREATHING IN THREE STAGES

This is known as “abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing”. The foremost rule is to breathe through the nose with the mouth closed. First inhale slowly through your nose, first pushing your abdomen out, then pushing your ribcage out, and then finally feeling the air entering your upper chest. There is now a return journey three part movement. As you exhale pull in your diaphragm which allows the air to first leave your lower lung, then the middle, and lastly the upper part.

Repeat this three part movement once again. Firstly, as you inhale feel the diaphragm moving downwards into the abdomen, filling the lowest part of the lungs with air as the abdomen expands. Secondly, as you draw air into the middle part of the lungs, feel the inter-costal muscles expanding the ribcage, and thirdly, as you draw air into the upper part of the chest lift the collar bones and fill the top part of the lungs with air.  And then with just as much thought exhale from lower lungs to middle lungs, to upper lungs.

There is little thought given to exhalation, however it is extremely significant. When we breathe out the diaphragm rises and with the help of the inter-costal muscles the stale air and waste is forced out of the lungs. When we do not exhale fully, we then go on to inhale, leaving the stale air which is still in the lungs to be sucked deeper into the sacs. The result is lower oxygen levels in the alveoli, and therefore lower oxygen levels throughout the body.

PRACTICE

Remember that you can practice your new way of breathing anywhere and any time - whenever you have a spare minute to focus and get yourself started. - You could be sitting at a desk at work, or on a bus or a train, or in your sitting room at home. Keep in mind that it is not possible to achieve if you are slumped over or tensed-up, so always be self-aware. 

BREATHING TO DESTRESS AND RELAX

Breathing is linked to our emotions. The activation of “our stress response” makes us breathe rapidly from the chest which is an action known as hyperventilation. There are various techniques which use breathing as a tool to control mind over matter. Whenever you feel stress or tension creeping up, or if you are anxious from the strong urge you feel to smoke, do as follows: First drop your shoulders, and allow them to expand to the sides to broaden your back. Now close your eyes and take 5 slow deep breaths counting 1234 as you breathe in and counting 1234 as you breathe out. Imagine that you are drawing in life-force and vitality from the air. - This could take the form of a colour, so envisage a rainbow and choose one colour or the whole image. Imagine that you are radiating this immense light all over your body, from your very core outwards in all directions. On the first few out breaths you could exhale whispering a quiet A-h-h-h! This will help to relax your muscles around the neck throat and mouth.

Breathing reflects your physical health and cigarette history – the number of years you have been smoking, and the amount. Breathing can be shallow or deep, slow or rapid and is a good indication of our physical and mental condition.  It can often reflect our intense thoughts, distress, and current emotional disposition. When we are depressed we may find ourselves sighing a great deal and talking as we breathe out. When we are angry or nervous we take shallow breaths, and even hold our breath, and when we are agitated we hyperventilate (over-breathe), and take in too much carbon dioxide into the blood which causes faintness, feelings of anguish, and other psychological repercussions.

Oxygen is a neurotransmitter. Are you aware that when your breathing is not at its optimum, the brain is the first organ to suffer, and stress develops much faster? This is because it requires large amounts of oxygen and glucose as well as a spectrum of nutrients. Although the brain accounts for only 2% of our body weight, it consumes around 20% of obtainable oxygen and glucose. Have you noticed how when you are thinking intensely about something - often a negative or worrying subject, your breathing becomes very shallow - this is known as “coastal breathing” and is a natural response to stress. If you have been taught to monitor your breathing power, and upgrade to a higher capacity of inhalation and exhalation, you will often lose the negativity and stress that were surrounding your thoughts, and you will think in a more positive light. Relaxed breathing is rhythmical and slow, and feels totally natural. The long smooth inhalations calm us and relieve anxiety; they even help to ease minor physical aches and tensions. This is because a signal is sent to the brain that we are breathing harmoniously, and the brain in response sends signals to our physical body that we are relaxed, and should remain that way.

So the benefits of proper breathing are clear – you will increase your ability to deal with complex situations without feeling strained, have better emotional restrain, improved physical and mental control and co-ordination, greater concentration and positivity, a higher level of energy, and better body function. These benefits will make you far stronger against the battle of quitting, and in time, you will find relaxed breathing will become the norm even at times of stress.  I believe that Princess Diana, who I was lucky enough to meet, once said, "Breathing is a pleasure", so do not continue to compromise the rewards by lighting up - quit for good!



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