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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.

Pulse

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.

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