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Leslie Elia was terrified when she found out that her heart’s rhythm had become irregular. But she soon discovered a simple, inexpensive tool could increase her oxygen intake and help strengthen her heart — without medication!
As the doctor spoke, panic gripped Leslie Elia. This can’t be happening, she reeled. An avid biker, kayaker and runner, when she started wheezing and having shortness of breath, the Cleveland 56-year-old thought maybe she’d developed exercise-induced asthma. She was shocked when her doctor referred her to a cardiologist.
“You have atrial fibrillation,” the specialist now told her, explaining that AFib is an irregular, often rapid heart rate that can increase the risk of stroke, heart failure and other complications and is somewhat common in endurance athletes like herself.
Leslie was told she could go on blood thinners, have ablation (a noninvasive surgical procedure) or do nothing and see if it got better… for now. A certified health coach, Leslie opted to hold off on medical treatment until she had more information and, in the meantime, she consulted a functional medicine doctor whom she also saw regularly.
That doctor noted that Leslie was a mouth breather, which, she explained, can contribute to sleep apnea, as well as heart conditions and high blood pressure, because the body does not get sufficient oxygen. Leslie had indeed seen her blood pressure rise to a high of 142/90 over the past year or so. Could changing the way I breathe actually help my heart? Leslie mused.
A simple solution
As she pondered the idea, Leslie remembered watching the Tour de France years prior and seeing one of the riders, Chris Froome, wearing a small device in his nose. She figured it was something to help him get more air while riding in mountain altitudes. Curious if it would help her, she did some research and found that Froome wore a Turbine Nasal Dilator. Unlike nasal strips that attempt to open nasal passages by pulling on the nose from outside, the device has two small, cone-shaped cylinders that are inserted into the nostrils, pushing out against the nose wall from inside, and is said to dramatically improve air flow.
Leslie bought an assorted-size pack on Amazon for $18, and, after determining her perfect fit, bought a three-pack of the reusable dilators in her size for $22. She put one by her bed to use while she slept and the other two in places convenient to grab when exercising or heading out for an active day.
While it felt strange to wear at first, Leslie was amazed by the increase in air she felt coming in through her nose.
And after using the nasal dilator for just three months, her cardiologist was impressed to find her blood pressure had gone down to 120/76 and was thrilled to hear that her heartbeat was less chaotic.
When Leslie told him about using a nasal dilator, he acknowledged that breathing through the nose allows for deeper breaths, which in turn activates the “rest and digest” response of the nervous system, slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure.
Today, Leslie has been using the nasal dilator for 10 months and says she no longer gets easily winded and rarely has heart-fluttering episodes.
“I can’t believe something so little and inexpensive could dramatically improve my health,” Leslie marvels. “I just feel glorious!”
Surprising health benefits of nose breathing
Why is mouth breathing the norm for millions of women? Blame falls on stress, allergies and anatomical issues like a deviated septum. It’s a problem, says ear, nose and throat specialist Len Zhang, M.D., because breathing through the nose releases nitric oxide, a gas that balances oxygen levels in the blood, lowering stress. Nose breathing also offers these whole-body health perks:
- Blocks ‘bugs’! “Inhaling through your nose drives nitric oxide deep into your lungs,” says researcher Louis Ignarro, Ph.D. Once there, it blocks the growth of bacteria and viruses, including COVID-19. Plus, tiny hairs called cilia in nasal passages filter 20 billion particles daily, keeping them from reaching the lower respiratory tract.
- Boosts energy! Nitric oxide relaxes and opens airways, eases lung inflammation and increases oxygen absorption in the bloodstream by 20 percent, says Dr. Zhang. “This dramatically stokes energy and erases brain fog!”
Buy at Amazon, $21.99
Why we like it:
- 8.4K 5-star reviews
- Ergonomic fit
- Comes with four sizes
With more than 17,000 reviews on Amazon, this set of nose vents won’t let you down. Designed with medical-grade silicone and an ergonomic shape, reviewers say they are surprisingly comfortable to wear to sleep. The kit comes with four sizes so you can find the best fit for your nose.
Promising review: “These nose vents are great and I can’t sleep without them. They open up my nasal passages and I am able to breath at night through my nose and not my mouth. My nasal passages swell and make my nose feel congested and the vents open them right up and I can breath!! I swear they even help my sleep apnea! I cannot sleep without them. I’ve tried the nasal strips and the adhesive irritates the skin on my nose after a few days and clogs my pores. The vents are durable and well constructed! I wash them every morning so they are ready to go the next night. I love them and so glad I have them. I highly, highly recommend them. Thank you for making them with the highest quality! My nose thanks you and my lungs thank you!”
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.