We take our lungs for granted. They keep us alive, and we really don’t have to give them much thought. Sure, we know we need oxygen to survive, but it isn’t something we think about daily or even regularly. It just kind of happens on its own.
Our body uses its own defense system to keep our lungs free of dirt, healthy, and functioning properly. And it usually isn’t until we start to have difficulty breathing that we really pay them any attention. Our lungs are critical to our overall health. This is why we need to prioritize lung health and do all we can to keep them healthy.
After about the age of 35, it’s normal for lung function to decline gradually with age. Just like other parts of our body, our lungs also change. This can include our diaphragm getting weaker and our lung tissue losing elasticity, causing our airways to become smaller. Another change can include our rib cage bones getting smaller, leaving less room for our lungs to expand. These changes affect lung capacity and can make breathing slightly more difficult as we get older.
Lung disease also becomes more prominent as we age, making it even more important that we do our part to keep our lungs strong and healthy. Establishing these lifestyle habits can promote healthy lungs and help you breathe with ease throughout your lifetime.
Quit Smoking Right Now
Probably the most important thing you can do for your lungs is to abstain from smoking. If you currently smoke, stop now! And if you don’t smoke, don’t start! Smoking cigarettes is the number one cause of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Smoking leads to chronic inflammation and swelling of the lungs, which leads to chronic bronchitis. Smoking destroys lung tissue and triggers changes that can develop into cancer. It’s never too late to quit smoking. Quitting usually takes several attempts. So, if you try and don’t succeed the first time, don’t give up on yourself. It’s definitely worth it. By not smoking, you can lessen your risk for other chronic conditions, such as heart disease and stroke.
Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
Exercise and being physical are important for building muscle and keeping your body in shape, but it’s also important for strengthening your lungs and heart. Exercise is one of the best habits you can establish for healthy lungs. When you exercise, your lungs and heart work together to bring in oxygen and deliver it to the muscles being used. This improves circulation and strengthens tissue around the lungs. Aerobic exercise, like walking, running, or swimming, helps to exercise your lungs so they function more efficiently. Muscle-strengthening activities, such as weight lifting, build core strength, which helps to improve posture and breathing muscles, including your diaphragm.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve learned a lot about how dangerous infections can be to our lungs. They can severely impact the function and capacity of even the healthiest lungs. Those who already suffer from lung disease, in addition to the senior population, are at a greater risk for infections.
There are several things you can do to protect yourself from infections. The best way to prevent lung infections is to keep your hands clean. You should wash your hands often with warm soap and water. This helps to prevent the transfer of germs. You should also avoid crowds during cold and flu season. Getting vaccinated against influenza can help when you’re out and about and in contact with other people. In addition, drinking lots of water and eating nutritious foods, like fruits and vegetables, can boost your immune system, helping to ward off infections.
Avoid Exposure to Pollutants
The air quality indoors and outdoors can significantly affect the health of your lungs. You should try to avoid air pollutants, such as secondhand smoke, chemicals, and car exhaust, as much as possible. These are all toxic and can damage your lungs.
Try not to go outside during peak air pollution times. You can check what the air quality currently is in your area and plan accordingly. If you exercise outdoors, avoid places where there is heavy traffic.
When you’re inside, open windows frequently to help with ventilation. Also, keep your house as clean as possible using natural cleaning products to prevent mold, dust, and pet dander. These irritants can get into your lungs and cause complications.
Get Regular Checkups
The best way to treat lung disease is through prevention. Regular checkups help to prevent and catch early signs of diseases and complications. Lung disease often goes undetected until it becomes serious. Even if you are feeling well, it’s important to have check-ups where your provider listens to your breathing and checks for any possible concerns. If caught early, your chances for recovery from lung disease, including cancer, are much greater.
Don’t wait until it’s too late. Adopting these habits for healthy lungs can help keep your lungs functioning in tip-top shape. And if you have any degree of difficulty breathing, discuss your symptoms with your provider. The more you and your provider work together, the better your care and outcome will be.