What is respiratory rate and how is it controlled?

Have you ever wondered why we breathe? Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not just to stay alive. Our bodies are complex machines, and like any machine, they need fuel to function.

But just how do we get that fuel? We consume food which gets digested in our stomachs and intestines. The oxygen from the air we breathe helps break down that food into simple sugars which can be used by our cells for energy through a process called respiration. To achieve optimal respiration, one must maintain adequate respiratory rate- so join me as I take a dive into this subject with my lab coat on!

So what exactly is respiratory rate?

Respiratory rate, also known as breathing frequency, refers to the number of breaths an individual takes per minute (BPM). In healthy adults at rest, typical rates range between 12 – 20 BPM1. However during some activities such as intense exercise or sleep disorders involving brief pauses in breathing (sleep apnea), these rates may vary from normal ranges2.

Why should we care about respiratory rate?

Our bodies work like clocks ticking away inside us making sure everything stays in check including maintaining blood PH levels through regulation of carbon dioxide levels in the blood. Being aware of our respiratory rates can help detect underlying health problems like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) where asymptomatic people have been observed but early stage diagnosis if spotted early could prevent chronicity.

Changing your breathing patterns consciously has shown much promise according research studies alluding maybe even potential alleviation of issues stemming from anxiety disorders too!.

By understanding how our body regulates breathing pattern changes based on for example activity level or altitude due pressure-planes flying soaring high above mountains will doubtlessly expose folks trying snowmobiling treks being less conservative about their holiday locations and wellness ought to know at sea-level our respiratory rate increases by around 50%! Of course, if you’re feeling something out of the ordinary or concerns pop up it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor.

So how does our body regulate this breathing thing anyhow?

Our brains through nerve cells called neural centers (found within medulla oblongata in the brainstem) monitor changes in the carbon dioxide levels within our bloodstream. If high levels of CO2 are detected, then signals travel from these neural centers down phrenic nerves which trigger diaphragm contractions so we inhale more oxygen-rich air!. Upon exhaled breaths, waste product- CO2 is removed as well allowing for proper PH balance maintenance between lungs and blood vessels

On top of that reflexes can be initiated via other mechanisms (low pressure due altitude alongside/or obstructed airways conditions) causing significantly augmented breathing rates amongst those who find themselves residing at altitudes beyond normal living standards- remember when Neil Armstrong once said “That’s one small step for man but one giant leap towards increased respiratory rates!” he sure wasn’t kidding!

This kinda like traffic getting congested on a Saturday evening – cars just stopping right where they are without warning; ultimately leading into highway standstill type situations! – this hype however could simply button down regulating ins-piration: limiting disruptive external stimuli such rumblings shakes seismic-induced events’.

What factors influence changes in respiratory rate?

Age: Both young children and elderly individuals have higher resting respirations than healthy adults .

Metabolic Activity: A great deal of energy consumption will necessitate more oxygenative delivery increasing demands from organs including muscles etc… Such scenarios seemingly require larger bandwidth capabilities resulting sustained volume respire cycles! Preventing all kinds undesirable effects arising pathogens-such things white blood cell counts becoming inadequate eventually even heart-stroke risks per say.

Altitude: When at higher altitudes, air pressure decreases which can lead to less oxygen saturation and potentially increased breathing rates as the body works harder to get the necessary amount of oxygen.

Temperature: Hot ambient temperatures may cause a faster respiration rate due to dehydration – drinking water could impart relief though1.

Can we change our respiratory rate voluntarily?

Yes! Deep breathing or diaphragmatic breathing is associated with various potential health benefits including decreased anxiety levels 3. You might have even heard stories when women in labor use controlled breathing techniques ( Lamaze technique) release endorphins contributing pain suppression during delivery type circumstances(still doesn’t mean you should show up without an epidural!). Practicing slowing down your breaths by counting breaths ,taking long deep inhalations followed equally lengthy exhales periods regularly might prove helpful too!

In conclusion

Just like how many chefs test their culinary creations before presenting them to customers, keeping track of one’s respiratory rates can help maintain vital signs well being. With everything listed above taken on board; just keep it natural-slow-breathe if that suits your tempo now go ahead add some ‘Zen’ moments for good measure!.


1.Normal Respiratory Rates: Adult Men and Women. Shahzia_Seth – https://microbenotes.com/respiratory-rate/

2.Different Types of Breathing Techniques And Their Benefits-https://www.republicworld.com/lifestyle/health/different-types-of-breathing-techniques-and-their-benefits.html

3.Brown CA, Jones AKP Respiration & Pain Experience Psychophysiology 2008 Jun45(3):doi:10.1111/j1540-4560jzL1855 x

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