Every breath you take: the process of breathing explained


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Abstract

This article has been double-blind peer reviewedIn this article…• Purpose of obtaining air from the environment• Purpose of external and internal gas exchange in the human body• Mechanical and chemical processes involved in breathingAuthor SH Cedar is associate professor and reader in human biology at the School of Health and Social Care, London South Bank University, and author of Biology forHealth: Applying the Activities of Daily Living. Breathing uses chemical and mechanical processes to bring oxygen to every cell of the body and to get rid of carbon dioxide. Our body needs oxygen to obtain energy to fuel all our living processes. Carbon dioxide is a waste product of that process. The respiratory system, with its conduction and respiratory zones, brings air from the environment to the lungs and facilitates gas exchange both in the lungs and within the cells. Nurses need a solid understanding of how breathing works, and of vital signs of breathing and breathing patterns, to be able to care for patients with respiratory problems and potentially save lives in acute situations.Citation Cedar SH (2018) Every breath you take: the process of breathing explained. Nursing Times [online]; 114: 1, 47-50.Key pointsEnergy in our bodies is obtained by breaking the chemical bonds in moleculesOxygen sourced from the air is a vital ingredient in the process of energy synthesisThe respiratory system is designed to facilitate gas exchange, so that cells receive oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxideBreathing changes throughout the day according to our activitiesIn an acute situation, one of the first interventions is to check the airways are clear so air can be drawn into the lungs

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