Love your grandparents? Then teach them to exhale.

The number one health factor that affects older adults is an increase of residual air in the lungs, which is a really bad thing. What this means is that they are retaining more stale air than when they were younger. The inhales are much smaller and the ripple effect of this unbalance of oxygen and Co2 wreaks havoc on their bodies, quality of life, and, ultimately, longevity.

Here’s the problem. If you are a Vertical breather, you breathe with your shoulders, up and down, and as a result the exhale is going to be on the down part, which is totally inefficient.

So, the bottom line? If you love your grandparents and your mom and dad, and want them to be healthy and around a long time, do push the green juices, supplements and exercise, but first and foremost yell at them to inhale and exhale horizontally, with the exhale narrowing their bodies (“belly button to spine”).

As people age, their thoracic cavity and the muscles between the ribs (the intercostals) get rigid. Grandpa got a barrel chest? That is the worst thing that can happen to him. It means he is pretty much gasping for air with every breath, not feeding his body and brain the oxygen it needs, not flushing lymph from his body with the movement of the breath; in sum, not getting the abdominal and spinal massage they need from a good anatomically congruous horizontal breath. Need a reminder of a horizontal breath? Grab Fido or your 5-year-old niece and watch them inhale — they expand around the middle.

The remedy? Stretch, exhale hard, stretch more, exhale some more.

Make that the first priority when it comes to your grandparents’ physical and emotional health.

Dr. Belisa Vranich is a renowned clinical psychologist, public speaker, and the author of BREATHE.

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