A friend of ours had a baseline respiratory rate of 8 breaths per minute around ten years ago when she was healthy. Compared to Paula’s rate of 3 breaths per minute, we thought this was pretty good but it turns out to be considered not so good by health professionals. It is on the edge, as under 8 breaths per minute is considered bradypnea. Bradypnea can be a sign of a condition that affects your metabolism or another problem, like sleep apnea, carbon monoxide poisoning, or a drug overdose. [this friend was not on drugs or medications and did not have carbon monoxide poisoning.
When we explored her paediatric and birth history, we found out that she had been hit by a car when she was 5 and spent several months in the hospital. Peripheral muscle and nerve damage could be the reason for her slower than average breathing rate. In any case measuring her respiratory rate led us to this important part of her paediatric history which, it turned out, no one knew about.
Her slower rate of breathing and her car accident as a child might be related to her current condition; she subsequently developed Parkinson’s Disease. Today she is on medication which seems to have changed her baseline respiratory rate dramatically [now it is 20 breaths per minute] and perhaps this is why it helps; we do not know.
Perhaps it would be important to monitor the baseline respiratory rate at rest, at the start of treatment for [in this case ] Parkinson’s in order to see if carbon dioxide retention could be part of the reason why the patient develops * shaking tremors. Perhaps our friend’s baseline respiratory rate dropped below 8 breaths per minute as she was developing signs of Parkinson’s. Perhaps her medication helped because it helped manage her respiratory metabolism more efficiently, at least for a few years….it is not helping as much any more and we don’t know why. * September 1965 JAMA Internal Med. Neurologic Manifestations of Respiratory Failure KAYE H. KILBURN, MD
Perhaps tracking baseline respiratory rates in health and at the beginning of the illness and during treatments might shed some light on whether control of gaseous singling molecules is involved or not.
In Paula’s case , it is not clear whether her respiratory rate has always been so low. Although she remembers that it has always taken effort to breathe. So perhaps she has always had baseline active exhaling at rest and perhaps active [more than usual] inhaling too.
Maybe her respiratory rate was higher in her twenties and declined after myriad infections, especially if she became weak and undernourished as a result. e only found out by accident that her respiratory rate is so abnormal at a routine first aid class [twenty years ago] and she was already on medication then.
Maybe the respiratory rate and skeletal muscle system decline gradually with age, hormonal changes and neuro-muscular injury.
No one has studied this.
No one knows why respiratory rate declines from infancy to later childhood and declines even more so, upon reaching adult size.
We think that someone should explore these questions in health and in illness, from birth to old age.
One thing seems clear, all aspects of breathing are important to organ function, including that of the brain and of the mind.