When most of us think about getting in shape or getting healthy, we rarely think of our lungs. They’re a group of organs that are often taken for granted, and it isn’t until we experience difficulty breathing that we take our lung health into consideration.
Our lungs allow us to breathe, which ultimately keeps us alive. Without healthy lungs, our quality of life would suffer, and our entire body would struggle to function. That’s why it’s vital that we pay our lungs some attention and prioritize our lung health.
Our body has a natural defense system that helps filter dirt and germs to protect our lungs. However, we, too, need to step up and take precautions to reduce our risk of lung disease and keep our lungs healthy.
Follow these five tips to keep your lungs healthy and properly supplying oxygen!
Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). All types and amount of smoking is harmful and should be avoided. This includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and marijuana, as well as vaping. Tobacco narrows and irritates the air passageway making it difficult to breathe. The irritation can cause your airway to become inflamed and cause you to develop a cough, which only further irritates your lungs.
Over time along with resulting in chronic inflammation, smoking destroys lung tissue. Every time you smoke, you’re inhaling dangerous chemicals, including nicotine, carbon monoxide, and tar, that slowly wreaks havoc on your lung tissue. This in itself is worrisome because the damaged tissue may trigger changes that could develop into cancer.
It’s never too late to quit smoking, though. Regardless of how long you smoked, you can still reduce your risk of lung cancer by stopping. Your risk will continue to gradually decline as your number of years of not smoking increases.
Staying physically active helps condition your lungs so they can perform better and more efficiently. Just as exercise helps to strengthen your heart and your muscles, it helps to strengthen your lungs. When you exercise, your heart and lungs work hard to supply the extra oxygen to your muscles in use.
If you’re out of shape or your lungs are diseased or damaged, you’ll find yourself out of breath when trying to be active. This is because your lungs are not able to efficiently provide your body with the necessary oxygen. However, as you become in shape and your physical fitness improves, your body is able to get oxygen more easily into the bloodstream and to your working muscles. This prevents you from becoming short of breath.
It doesn’t matter what type of exercise you choose, whether it be walking, jogging, biking, or tennis, just as long as you get your heart rate up. You should aim for 30 minutes, five times a week.
As you become older, your immune system isn’t as strong as it used to be. As a result, simple germs you pick up while out and about can enter your body and do severe damage to your lungs and respiratory system.
Influenza, pneumonia, and COVID-19 are all severe respiratory illnesses that can cause infection and inflammation to your lungs. When your lungs become infected by a virus or bacteria, the air sacs within them become inflamed and fill with fluid. This prevents oxygen from reaching the bloodstream making it difficult to breathe.
To prevent becoming infected, wash your hands often with soap and water, practice good hygiene, avoid crowds when possible (especially during flu season), and get your vaccinations. Getting vaccinated is your best line of defense from getting the flu and COVID-19.
Just like smoking, air pollution, such as secondhand smoke, exhaust fumes, fossil fuels, and pollutants from construction or demolition, can be detrimental to the health of your lungs. Dirty air can be dangerous for all ages. For children and adults over 65, it can cause severe and lasting lung damage.
Try to avoid secondhand smoke and being outdoors when the air quality is not good. Don’t exercise or walk near heavy traffic and be careful if you’re exposed to pollutants at work. Wear a mask if there is a risk of exposure to airborne pollutants. You want to do what you can to prevent breathing in any harsh chemicals or pollutants as they can irritate and infect your lungs leading to damage and disease.
Eat An Antioxidant-Rich Diet
Eating a good balance of nutrient-rich foods is essential for optimum overall health. But adding in some extra foods high in antioxidants can help keep your lungs healthy and functioning at their best.
Antioxidants help to control oxidation within the body. Oxidation is a normal chemical process that occurs when our body metabolizes the oxygen we breathe and turns it into energy. However, when there’s an overabundance of free radicals during the process, oxidative stress occurs. This then leads to cell and tissue damage. Antioxidants help to neutralize the free radicals, holding their damage at bay.
Our body naturally creates antioxidants but obtaining them via food or supplement sources is the best way to get the highest concentration. Fruits and vegetables typically have the highest levels of antioxidants. Try adding some blueberries to your yogurt for an antioxidant punch. Leafy greens, including spinach and kale, are packed with vitamins A, C, and E (all antioxidants) that help to lower inflammation and promote circulation and oxygen delivery.
Tomatoes and red peppers are both high in vitamin C and lycopene. Studies have suggested vitamin C to have a protective effect on certain lung diseases, like asthma and obstructive airway diseases. While another recent study also found that adults who ate two tomatoes a day showed less lung decline compared to those who ate less than one tomato daily.
Take Steps to Breathe Easier
With everything going on in the world today, it’s more important than ever to keep our lungs healthy and free of pathogen invaders. And the older we get, the more critical it becomes. You can’t protect yourself from respiratory intruders completely, but you can take steps to reduce your risk. To find out more information about lung health and what you can do to protect yourself, contact a VIPcare provider near you.