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Dr. Andrew Rynne
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Dr. Andrew Rynne

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Does breath-holding cause permanent brain damage?

Answered by
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Dr. Olsi Taka

Neurologist

Practicing since :2004

Answered : 3650 Questions

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Posted on Mon, 19 Sep 2016 in Brain and Spine
Question: Can holding ones breath while lifting weights cause brain damage from increased intracranial pressure? There was a period of about 5 weeks where I lifted weights 5 times a week and during each set of about 20 seconds I held my breath. I got headaches after each weights session. I have had memory problems since this period. Did I cause irreversible brain damage
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Answered by Dr. Olsi Taka 3 hours later
Brief Answer:
No that is not the case.

Detailed Answer:
I read your question carefully and I understand your concern.

I must say though (fortunately) that brain damage from holding your breath is not the case. Headache can occur when holding ones breath because the increased carbon dioxide levels promote dilation of blood vessels and distension of the meninges, the layers covering the brain which have pain sensations (the brain itself has no pain receptors). So that may cause headache in some patients, it is thought that similar mechanisms (vasodilation) are involved in other types of headache such as migraine.
Vasodilation though doesn't cause damage to the brain cells themselves, that doesn't harm them in any way. Try to breathe regularly to avoid recurrences of the headaches.

I remain at your disposal for further questions.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
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