Dayton Respiratory Center
Our body is a complex machine, and it may be easy to take its proper functioning for granted.
You might not think about your lungs very much—breathing just happens—until you're short of breath. Your lungs are vital organs that oxygenate your blood and eliminate waste gas (carbon dioxide). Their functioning is essential to life. Your cells need a steady supply of oxygen.
The negative impacts of allergens, dust, pollution, and COVID-19 highlight the importance of lung health. Improving your lung health is one key to a healthy body. How can you best care for your lungs?
Here are a few lifestyle changes that can improve your lung health.
Our lungs are self-cleaning, but they need the right conditions.
We all know smoking causes cancer, but it is also responsible for several lung diseases.
For example, smoking is the leading cause of COPD. Cigarette smoke contains more than 7000 different compounds, most of which are toxic. These toxins irritate the airways, increase mucus secretions, and cause inflammation that narrows the airways, making breathing difficult.
Quitting smoking may not be easy, but this one step can save your lungs. Once you quit smoking, your body immediately starts to heal, and you'll experience the benefits within 20 minutes. These benefits continue for years.
Although less harmful than cigarette smoking, vaping is not a safe alternative. Patients shifting to e-cigarettes as the first step to quitting smoking can develop lung injuries that may even lead to death.
Giving up an addiction is not easy, but it’s not impossible either, and with proper counseling and medication, you can succeed.
Polluted air contains various toxic pollutants that irritate the airways and exacerbate lung disorders like asthma. Air pollution can have long-term detrimental effects on the body.
Our lungs are self-cleaners, but with age, this ability decreases, making us more prone to infections. Moreover, continuous exposure to pollution restricts this natural cleaning mechanism.
Indoor air can sometimes be more harmful than outdoor air. Many household cleaning products are significant contributors to indoor air pollution. Indoor air pollutants can deteriorate lung health and lead to lung diseases.
We're often more exposed to indoor pollutants because we spend so much of our time indoors—especially with the COVID-19 induced quarantine.
To maximize your lung health, you can:
• Avoid outdoor trips during low air quality periods
• Avoid passive cigarette smoke
• Wear a mask in polluted areas
• Keep your house clean and dust-free
• Ensure proper ventilation
• Grow indoor air purifying plants or use an air filter
• Substitute harsh chemical cleaning agents with natural ones
• Replace air fresheners and candles with essential oils and natural fresheners
Water clears toxins from the body.
Our lungs secrete mucus as a defense mechanism against irritants. This mucus traps the irritants, and the lungs flush them out of the body by coughing and sneezing.
Water helps to loosen the mucus and clear it out from our system, while dehydration makes the mucus thick and sticky, hindering its elimination and affecting normal respiration.
Also, our body has a thin layer of clear secretions lining the lungs that aid normal respiration. Dehydration dries this lining, irritating the airways and making it difficult to breathe. Staying hydrated ensures normal respiration and prevents breathing problems.
Histamines are responsible for allergic reactions. But they also act as a defense mechanism to prevent water loss from the body during dehydration. Dehydration triggers the production of histamines, which gives rise to allergy-like symptoms, which affect the lungs. You can prevent this allergic reaction by simply staying hydrated.
Physical exercise helps to strengthen the muscles and improve heart and lung function. While exercising, your muscle's oxygen demand increases, and your heart and lungs work harder to meet the need. This exertion challenges your lungs and helps to increase your lung capacity.
Under normal conditions, you use only 50% of your lung capacity. Deep breathing exercises can help you increase your lung capacity and improve your lung volume. It also helps overcome hyperventilation (rapid breathing) symptoms associated with lung diseases like COPD. Moreover, deep breathing also helps us relax and de-stress.
One of the simplest and easiest medicines for healthy lungs is laughter. Laughter tightens the chest muscles and stretches your lung's limits, flushing out the stale air. Fresh air can now enter deeper into the lungs.
When you laugh, your alveoli expand, increasing the gas exchange area. Increased surface area enhances oxygen transfer and ensures better oxygenation of the blood.
Lungs are an essential part of your body. You can manage and even prevent lung problems with proper care. Adopting a few lifestyle changes, like quitting smoking and doing cardio, can help improve your lung health and ensure you stay healthy. Improve the air quality in your home with air filtration and by switching the cleaners you use to healthier alternatives.
Breathing exercises help too—and don't forget to laugh. Some of the simplest things can keep your lungs healthy for a long time to come.
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