CO2 and Breathing Assist in Recovery Post Cardiac Arrest.

A recent world first study which reviewed 16,000 patients across a decade found that higher than normal levels of CO2 in the early post resuscitation period following a heart attack could boost survival rates. And reduce brain damage.

This study was motivation enough for the Austin Hospital in Melbourne to give patients recovering from cardiac arrest more CO2 to boost long-term recovery.

It has always been understood that CO2 plays a vital role in breathing – being the limiting factor that influences oxygen delivery to the cells via haemoglobin in the blood stream (see notes on “The Bohr Effect” in

Dr Glenn Eastwood from the Austin Hospital’s ICU research department said that slightly higher levels of CO2 have an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-convulsive properties and these are important for protecting the brain after a heart attack. And slightly higher levels of CO2 could increase blood flow to the brain, which may help it get enough oxygen to maintain its own metabolism, preserving its function.

What no one has said is that CO2 in human blood should normally be at higher levels than they are in most people. Research has found that the average person breathes twice as often as medical diagnostic norms suggest we should – that is, we breathe 25,000-30,000 times per day as opposed to the 12,000-14,000 times per day according to these diagnostic norms.

And many people also breathe far more volume of air in and out than is necessary – particularly when breathing using the mouth.

An increase in breathing rate and volume contribute to ‘over-breathing’. Over breathing results in lower levels of arterial CO2 as the body exhales excessive amounts.

Therefore if the average person over breathes, and over breathing reduces CO2 levels in the system, it follows that the average person is exposing their system to lower levels of CO2 than they should according to diagnostic norms (according to the Bohr Effect, arterial CO2 levels should ideally be 40mmHg or above – a level I have found clinically via use of capnometry to measure CO2 levels to rarely ever be the case). In other words, the average person does not allow their breathing to adequately play it’s role in the body of energy production and maintenance of homeostasis and health. In essence, the average person underperforms in terms of breathing by up to 50%. And, except for our heart beating, breathing is the one bodily function that we perform more than any other.

Perhaps it also follows that higher levels of CO2 in general could help prevent cardiac arrests as much as they assist in recovery post a cardiac arrest. After all, as stated by Dr Eastwood, high CO2 levels have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-convulsive properties. Plus CO2 in the blood stream is a natural vasodilator, thus helping it increase blood flow to the brain (and all other parts of the body) and helps relieve pressure on constricted blood vessels.

Therefore training a person to breathe as they should according to diagnostic norms; i.e. having higher levels of CO2, or reversing their over breathing, would act as a wonderful preventative to heart disease and many other inflammatory ailments. And would be fantastic for exploring higher or optimal levels of health and performance.

I have found clinically, this can be achieved via 4-5 one hour bio-feedback driven sessions of breathing retraining and regular practice of 10-20 minutes daily from the person themselves. Once learned, they have obtained a life or ‘living’ skill that is free. And prevention has always been the best first aid.

Given considerable amounts are invested into research of how to treat or improve recovery post chronic ailments such as heart disease ($183,000 to Dr Eastwood and the Austin hospital in this case – which is great), it would also be great if some attention (even money) was paid to optimising living skills such as breathing (or nutrition, stabilization etc.).