Breathe in, breathe out! Simple and effortless. But what’s working tirelessly behind this fundamental life function are the lungs. These amazing organs allow us to take in the oxygen we need to live and eliminate the carbon dioxide and other toxins we don’t want. It keeps our blood moving and our cells nourished.
But, like all organs, the lungs can be susceptible to problems and diseases. Sometimes the natural defense system breaks down and doesn’t work as intended. Other times, things like smoking or air pollution can cause damage.
If you want to continue breathing easily and have healthy lungs for life, follow these tips on taking care of your lungs.
There are more than 180 toxins in the air we breathe. The sources vary from car exhaust and industrial pollution to cleaning chemicals and even the air fresheners we use in our homes. When these toxins enter our lungs, they can cause inflammation and trigger cell damage.
Over time, it can lead to conditions like asthma and bronchitis. While some conditions are manageable with medication and care, others can be life-threatening.
For instance, radon exposure is a prominent cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers. Similarly, asbestos exposure may cause pleural mesothelioma cancer, which is difficult to detect in time. So, it’s crucial to be aware of the toxins around you and take steps to avoid them.
Talk to your doctor or an industrial hygienist if you feel your workplace or home may expose you to harmful toxins.
You’ve heard it a million times, but it bears repeating: smoking is terrible for your lungs. It’s the leading cause of lung cancer and other chronic respiratory diseases.
Smoking damages the air sacs in your lungs and increases your risk of infection. It also makes it harder for your lungs to clear out mucus and debris. It can lead to conditions like bronchitis and emphysema, which make it difficult to breathe.
Unfortunately, now there are more than just cigarettes to worry about. E-cigarettes, or vaping, have become popular recently, especially among young people. But many don’t realize that vaping is just as harmful as smoking cigarettes.
If you smoke, the best you can do for your lungs is to quit. Speak to your doctor about ways to quit smoking, such as medication, support groups, and counseling.
Common colds and the flu are caused by viruses that enter our bodies through the nose and mouth. These viruses can cause fluid build-up in the air sacs of the lungs, making breathing a chore.
Bacterial pneumonia is another infection that can be very serious, especially for people with weakened immune systems. Since you can’t control airborne viruses, your best bet is to take preventative steps. Practicing good hygiene is a great way to do this.
Wash your hands religiously and avoid touching your face. Clean surfaces that are commonly touched in your home and office, such as door handles and light switches. If someone in your home is sick, take steps to prevent the spread of infection, such as using a separate bathroom and avoiding close contact.
You should also get vaccinated against the flu every year.
Stay physically active
The benefits of exercising go beyond toned abs and biceps. Exercise is crucial for maintaining lung health. Experts claim that our lungs aren’t functioning at full capacity when resting. Since our day-to-day lives don’t improve the situation, we must challenge our lungs with physical activity.
Two types of exercise are especially beneficial for the lungs:
- Aerobic: Exercises such as walking, running, or swimming gets our heart pumping and increases our breathing rate.
- Anaerobic: Exercises that are shorter, more intense bursts of activity. Sprinting and weightlifting are examples of anaerobic activities. While these activities don’t directly improve our lung function, they do increase our aerobic capacity, the amount of oxygen our body can use during exercise.
You can also practice diaphragmatic breathing, a type of deep breathing that helps strengthen the muscles used for respiration.
Eat a healthy diet
The food we eat affects every system in our body, including the lungs. Therefore, a healthy diet can improve lung function and help prevent COPD and asthma. In addition, certain foods help repair and protect lung tissue, such as:
Dark leafy greens: These are excellent sources of vitamins A, C, and E, which are antioxidants that help to protect the lungs from damage. Include spinach, kale, and collard greens in your diet.
Citrus fruits: Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can help to reduce inflammation. Since most bacterial invasions start with an infection, this can help to prevent lung damage before it even starts. Oranges, grapefruits, and lemons are all great.
Pumpkin Rich in carotenoids, pumpkin can help improve lung function. Add it to your diet as a smoothie, soup, or even roasted as a side dish. If you’re a smoker, pumpkins will fill the gap of 25% less lung function.
Beans: A great source of fiber, beans also contain vitamins C and E and carotenoids. These nutrients work together to improve lung function and protect against damage. Black beans, kidney beans, and lentils are all excellent choices.
Turmeric, peppers, and garlic are a few other daily-use items you can incorporate into your cooking to improve your lung function.
Get regular checkups
Some lung conditions aren’t as superficial as a cold and can take months or years to develop. The best way to catch them early is to get regular checkups, especially if you’re a smoker.
Catching a lung disease early makes it much easier to treat and manage. So, if you’re experiencing any shortness of breath, coughing, or chest pain, be sure to see a doctor.
During your visit, your doctor will likely take a chest x-ray or CT scan, which can help diagnose lung conditions such as pneumonia, bronchitis, or lung cancer. If they suspect you have a lung disease, they may also order a pulmonary function test. It is a non-invasive test that measures how well your lungs are functioning.
We use our lungs every day, but do we appreciate them enough? Unfortunately, most of us don’t even think about our lungs until we face an episode of severe wheezing or coughing.
But our lungs play a fundamental role in our overall health, and we must take steps to protect them. Since we can’t eliminate the external stimuli that damage our lungs, we can try to reduce our exposure to them and practice healthy habits that will help to improve lung function. So, take care of your lungs, and they’ll take care of you!