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Calling all People with Asthma or Sleep Apnea

1 November 2004

Calling all People with Asthma or Sleep Apnea

People with asthma or sleep apnea may learn ways to control their condition by taking part in research being carried out by Gisborne doctors.

A research project beginning next week is looking at the Buteyko breathing technique and the role it may play in reducing the use of preventative and reliever asthma inhalers.

Local researchers also want to study whether the breathing technique, named after a Russian medical pioneer, can help relieve the symptoms of sleep apnea.

Researcher and Gisborne Hospital Emergency Department Clinical Director Dr Patrick McHugh said at least 60 people are needed for the research.

“We are looking for people who have been diagnosed with asthma or sleep apnea. This opportunity will appeal to people feeling frustrated with their condition, or people who want more control over their condition.”

Dr McHugh was involved in a Gisborne-based trial around Buteyko in 2000. The research, later published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, showed that a group of people with asthma who learned and used Buteyko reduced their use of inhaled steroids by 50 percent, and reliever medication by 85 percent.

“It showed that the technique can provide sustained symptomatic relief greatly reducing the need for drugs. If you are able to reduce your intake of medication and maintain or increase control over your condition, then non-prescribed therapy must be a consideration.”

Dr McHugh said consultation with the community and health practitioners indicated there was support for a more detailed study over a longer period of time.

Each participant in the latest research project will be taught the Buteyko breathing technique for free. Usually a Buteyko course costs around $600.

The technique trains people to slow their breathing thereby reducing the hyperventilation associated with asthma and sleep apnea.

Researchers are interested in studying the effects of Buteyko on children and youth, and are particularly encouraging their participation.

Participants will need to attend Buteyko classes one hour a day, five days in a row. Classes will be offered to best suit participants’ working or school commitments, as well as their geographical location.

Dr McHugh said the Buteyko classes will be taught by two nurses from Ngati Porou Hauora Primary Health Organisation, a complementary health practitioner, and a kaiawhina from Turanganui Primary Health Organisation.

The four trainees are working towards qualifications in Buteyko teaching and will have their teaching supervised by Hawkes Bay Buteyko teacher Jennifer Stark.

“As part of the classes, participants will have their health monitored thereby providing a bigger picture of the long-term affects of Buteyko.”

Dr McHugh said the research was also providing a vital opportunity for the nurses and health practitioners to become qualified Buteyko teachers.

“We currently have no local teachers so this is one way we will make Buteyko more accessible to the Tairawhiti people.”

Dr McHugh acknowledged the commitment of the Buteyko Institute of Breathing and Health which covered the cost of training and supervision for the four trainees.

Dr McHugh is joined in his research by Tairawhiti District Health Population Health Manager Dr Bruce Duncan, TDH Consultant Physician Fergus Aitcheson, and former Public Health Unit geographer Frank Houghton.

They hope to publish their research findings late 2005.

Anyone interested in learning the Buteyko Breathing Technique and taking part in the research can register their interest by phoning:

Public Health Unit (06) 867 9119.


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