It’s easy to overlook the important job that our lungs perform and, until issues occur, we take for granted the simple act of breathing. Breathing feeds oxygen to every cell in the body and without sufficient oxygen, people are more prone to health issues. In fact, 8 of the 10 leading causes of death in the US are related to disease and 6 of those diseases are more common among smokers. The risk of heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, influenza/pneumonia, and kidney disease all increase for smokers. Smoking is just one factor to consider in protecting your lungs though. Here are some ways to keep your lungs healthy:
- Don’t smoke – This is the major cause of lung cancer and COPD as it causes chronic inflammation in the lungs, narrowing of air passages, and destruction of lung tissue.
- Avoid exposure to indoor pollutants – Secondhand smoke, chemicals in the home or workplace, and radon can cause or worsen lung disease.
- Minimize exposure to outdoor pollutants – Air quality can vary from day-to-day and can be unhealthy to breath. Watch for local weather alerts and limit outside time when air quality is bad.
- Prevent infection – A minor cold or other respiratory infection can sometimes become very serious. Protect yourself by washing your hands often, avoiding crowds during cold/flu season, practicing good oral hygiene, getting vaccinated, and staying home when you are sick to avoid infecting others.
- Get your physical – Regular physicals can prevent or catch lung disease early. A physician listens to your breathing as routine procedure during your physical and can hear potential changes in lung health. Any concerns you have regarding changes in health should be communicated as well.
- Exercise – Ordinary breathing only uses approximately 50% of your lungs’ capacity. Lungs need to be challenged with more intense activity to be used at full capacity. Like the rest of your body, lungs thrive on movement.