As the cases of COVID-19 rose all around the world, various public health actions were recommended or made compulsory in order to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. This included social distancing, wearing a face mask, and using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when you do not have the access to soap and water to clean your hands. Recently, a Nobel Prize Winner has said that breathing the right way can prevent COVID-19.
Louis J. Ignarro was co-recipient of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering nitric oxide as a signalling molecule in the cardiovascular system.
According to the article written by Ignarro, there is a way to breathe correctly which is more beneficial, allowing the nasal cavities to produce the molecule called nitric oxide, also termed NO.
Why Nitric Oxide Could Play an Important Role to Prevent COVID-19
Nitric oxide is a common signalling molecule that is produced by our arteries in all organs to regulate cardiovascular functions. NO causes the muscle cells (smooth muscle) enveloping arteries to relax, thereby causing vasodilation or widening of the arteries.
This physiological action results in a decrease in blood pressure within the arteries and increased blood flow to all organs through the dilated arteries. This is especially vital for COVID-19 patients as two of the complications from the virus are blood clots and strokes.
How Nitric Oxide Can Help To Kill Viruses
In a study done during the SARS outbreak, it was discovered that NO increased the survival rate of nucleus-containing mammalian cells infected with SARS-CoV. This suggested that NO had a direct antiviral effect. A small clinical study carried out afterwards showed that inhaled NO was effective against SARS-CoV in severely ill patients with pneumonia.
The SARS CoV shares most of its genome with the virus responsible for COVID-19.
This indicates that therapy with inhaled nitric oxide may be useful for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
How to Breathe the Right Way
Ignarro urged everyone to breathe in through their nose and exhale through their mouth. We need to consciously practise breathing properly to maximize the inhalation of nitric oxide into our lungs. A great way to practice breathing correctly is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. This breathing technique aims to reduce anxiety and induce relaxation.
To use the 4-7-8 technique, focus on the following breathing pattern:
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of 4.
- Hold your breath for a count of 7.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of 8.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths
A person may feel lightheaded after doing this for the first few times. Therefore, it is advisable to try this technique when sitting or lying down to prevent dizziness or falls.
The total number of seconds that the pattern lasts for is less important than keeping the ratio. A person who cannot hold their breath for long enough may try a shorter pattern instead, such as:
- Breathe in through the nose for 2 seconds
- Hold the breath for a count of 3.5 seconds
- Exhale through the mouth for 4 seconds
Effective breathing can not only help to prevent COVID-19, it can also help you sleep better, digest food more efficiently, improve your body’s immune response, and reduce stress levels.
Disclaimer: The information referred to in the article is based on publicly available evidence. Any course of treatment should only be followed after consulting a medical expert.