Disease or increased oxygen demand can alter the respiratory rate, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. In healthy individuals, for example, the respiratory rate increases with exercise because of an increased oxygen requirement.
The respiratory rate can also change because of disease processes, including disease that affects the respiratory system, metabolism or the brain, notes the National Center for Biotechnology Information. In the case of respiratory diseases, alterations to oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood as well as changes in the acid-base status result in the activation of feedback mechanisms in the central nervous system. These mechanisms change the respiratory rate and tidal volume.
Non-respiratory diseases that cause metabolic acidosis cause a compensatory change in the rate of respiration and tidal volume, which helps with the removal of carbon dioxide, states the National Center for Biotechnology Information. In the case of metabolic alkalosis, the respiratory system tries to compensate by changing the respiratory rate and tidal volume to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that is being emitted.
Neurological disorders can also affect the rate of respiration. A transection of the brain at the level of the midpons leads to a reduction in the rate of spontaneous breathing, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. A transection at the pontomedullary junction in the brain leads to irregular breathing patterns.