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Did You Know? Your Posture Affects Your Lungs and Heart

Poor posture contributes to problems in breathing patterns. Doctors see this problem frequently in people who spend a lot of time sitting each day. Maintaining a posture where your shoulders are rounded and your head is forward causes the muscles around your chest to tighten. These tight chest muscles can limit the ability of your rib cage to expand, and this can cause you to take rapid, shallow breaths.

Poor Posture and Your Heart and Lungs

There are two main ways of breathing: using your diaphragm to perform “belly breathing” or using the muscles around your neck to breathe from your chest.

Belly breathing pulls down on your diaphragm, which is a horizontal muscle between your chest and your stomach, to suck air into your lungs. Belly breathing fully inflates your lungs so that you get as much air as possible, whereas chest breathing only partially inflates your lungs.

When you breathe from your chest, you rely on the weaker secondary muscles in your neck and collarbone instead of on your strong diaphragm. When you combine chest breathing with poor body posture, your lungs cannot fully inflate to give your body all the oxygen it needs to function well. Over time, chest breathing combined with poor posture weakens many of the muscles in your upper body, which prevents those muscles from function well.

Sitting for a long time also prevents your lungs from inflating fully, as the forces of gravity pulls your neck and shoulders downwards. The longer you sit, the less your body is able to fight gravity. The accessory muscles in your chest tighten to cause rounded shoulders and a head-forward posture. This weakens the back by inhibiting the muscles that help you maintain an upright posture, which is essential for proper lung function.

Poor inflation of your lungs prevents you from inhaling oxygen-rich air, and keeps you from exhaling carbon dioxide and other toxins. Bad posture, then, allows carbon dioxide to build up in your system.

Slouching can also affect your heart. Poor posture can raise your blood pressure. While scientists are not exactly sure how, they think it has to do with the way bad posture causes pressure in your neck muscles. When you move, your neck muscles send a signal to your brain when you move, possibly to ensure that your brain has adequate blood supply while you move around. Poor posture can cause this system to break down, resulting in blood pressure that is either too high or too low.

Having an underlying heart or lung problem can increase the risk that you will suffer complications from poor posture. For more information on poor posture and the problems it causes, consult with your doctor. Make an appointment today with Virtual Imaging, Inc. Imaging Center at 770-730-0119.