With breath retraining, there are two measurements that are used to monitor asthma severity and progress. These are the pulse, which is a measurement of the number of heart beats taken usually over a period of one minute, and the control pause [CP], which is the length of time for which you can comfortably hold your breath.
The peak ﬂow meter will be a familiar piece of equipment to many people with asthma. However it is not used as a measurement in Buteyko breathing. If peak ﬂow measurement is part of your asthma management, continue to use it. However, after taking a reading from your peak ﬂow meter, hold your breath for three to ﬁve seconds and reduce your breathing for a while to replenish any loss of carbon dioxide.
Everyone should be able to measure their pulse but it is especially important that asthmatics are able to do so. The pulse should be taken before and after each half-hour set of breathing exercises. When these exercises are performed correctly, with relaxation and reduce volume of breathing, the pulse at the end of exercise will be lower than at the start. Reducing breathing relaxes the smooth muscle of the arteries which results in less pumping work for the heart. However, if breathing exercises are practised with too much effort or tension, the pulse will actually increase. It is important to spend time practising all breathing exercises with relaxation of muscles, even those involving physical activity. It should also be noted that the pulse rate will vary throughout the day, depending on factors such as diet, eating patterns and activity levels.
As mentioned above, the pulse is measured by counting the number of heartbeats per minute. Another option is to measure the number of beats over thirty seconds and multiply by two. Measuring for ﬁfteen seconds and multiplying by four leaves too much room for error and is not advisable.
When measuring heartbeats, make sure to measure your pulse and not to count the number of seconds on your clock or watch. Locate the pulse about one inch up from the wrist and about one centimetre inwards on the thumb side of the hand. Place two ﬁngers from the free hand onto the groove or channel in this area of the wrist where the slight throb of the pulse can be felt through the ﬁngertips. If you have difﬁculty locating the pulse on the wrist then check for it at the carotid artery in the neck.
In general, the lower the resting heart rate, the healthier the individual is. Normal healthy adults will have a pulse rate of 60 to 80 beats per minute at rest. Physically ﬁt individuals will have a lower pulse rate than this, although some individuals have a naturally low pulse rate.
If the pulse rate is greater than 90 and less than 110 beats per minute at rest, the asthma is uncontrolled and a visit to a doctor is necessary. If the pulse rate is greater than 110 beats per minute at rest, asthma is acute/severe and medical attention is necessary.
The normal pulse range for a child is higher than that of an adult. A child’s pulse can vary from 60 to 100 beats per minute which decreases as the child gets older.
With both children and adults, an upward trend in the pulse or an increase of twenty per cent over 24 hours while taken at rest, are signs that asthma is deteriorating. Practising breathing exercises intensively will bring down the pulse and if necessary a doctor should be consulted to increase the dose of preventative medication.
It is advisable to note that the aforementioned pulse rate measurements must be only taken after resting for half-an- hour as the pulse rate increases considerably with physical activity.
The maximum recommended pulse rate for any individual while participating in physical activity is 220 minus their age. For example, the maximum recommended pulse rate for a twenty-ﬁve-year-old is 195 beats (220 minus 25) per minute.
The pulse will vary depending on a variety of factors. It may be adversely affected by, for example, food consumption levels, food allergies, stimulants such as coffee or chocolate, and factors such as excitement, anxiety, excessive talking and, of course, big breathing.