Basic information | How does breathing work

How does breathing work?

Our thorax, in which the lungs are located, is made up of the twelve vertebrae of the spinal column. The ribs are attached to them by joints. Except for the lowest two, the ribs are in turn fastened by cartilage to the breastbone in front.

When air is breathed out our ribs hang in a slightly downward position and lie nearly on top of one another. The diaphragm, which is located as a partition between the chest and abdominal cavity, curves upward like a dome into the chest area.

To breathe in we raise our ribs with the help of our respiratory muscles. At the same time the musculature of the diaphragm becomes tense. The space between the ribs increases and the dome of the diaphragm flattens. Through these two mechanisms the space in the thorax increases. The lung must follow this movement and expand itself through the vacuum created between the costal and pulmonary pleura. Air must flow through the trachea into the lungs and reaches the alveoli via the respiratory passages.

When the respiratory muscles slacken, the ribs sink downward again. The diaphragm curves upward again. The space in the thorax becomes smaller and the air must escape.

You can compare this procedure with a set of bellows. When pulled apart air flows into the bellows. When squeezed together air is then pressed out again.

How does oxygen reach the cells the body?

Blood which is poor in oxygen is pumped from the heart into the lung where carbon dioxide is given off in the alveoli and oxygen from the air is transferred into the blood.

The oxygen reaches its goal - the many innumerable cells of our body - through the bloodstream on the back of the red blood cells so to speak.

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