CEBU, Philippines - The lungs are an essential respiratory organ, located near the backbone on either side of the heart. Their main function is to transport oxygen from the atmosphere into the bloodstream and to release carbon dioxide from the bloodstream into the atmosphere. The body’s cells need the oxygen to work and grow.
The lungs never rest. In just one day, a healthy person breathes nearly 25,000 times.
The body has a natural defense system designed to protect the lungs. This works very well most of the time, keeping out dirt and fighting off germs. However, several harmful substances can damage the airways and threaten the lungs’ ability to work properly, which can lead to lung disease.
Some common lung diseases are asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis, pneumonia, emphysema, cystic fibrosis, tuberculosis, lung cancer and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). People with lung disease have difficulty breathing and some diseases can even lead to respiratory failure.
There are many things that you can do to keep your lungs functioning properly. Simple lifestyle changes, dietary changes and healthy habits can be highly beneficial for your lungs. Here are some of the ways to keep your lungs strong and healthy.
Don’t smoke. If you smoke, it is time to quit in order to improve the condition of your lungs. Cigarette smoke contains thousands of harmful chemicals, some of which can cause health problems. In fact, smoking is the major cause of serious lung diseases like lung cancer and COPD.
Cigarette smoke can narrow the air passages and make breathing more difficult. It causes chronic inflammation or swelling in the lungs. With time, cigarette smoke can destroy lung tissues, which in turn increases your risk of lung cancer.
Avoid secondhand smoke. Non-smokers must avoid exposure to secondhand smoke to improve the condition of their lungs. Secondhand smoke is highly toxic and can cause havoc to your lungs and your overall health. To avoid secondhand smoke:
● Do not allow other people to smoke in your home, car or workplace.
● Support businesses and activities that are smoke-free.
● Avoid public places that permit smoking.
● Stay at smoke-free hotels when traveling in order to avoid residual smoke from previous patrons.
Limit your exposure to pollutants. In addition to cigarette smoke, there are various other pollutants present in the air that are harmful for your lungs as well as overall health. Even the synthetic fragrances used in various laundry products and air fresheners emit toxic chemicals.
Avoid highly polluted and industrialized areas. Do your part to minimize outdoor pollution and help create a cleaner environment. For example, whenever possible, walk or ride your bicycle instead of driving. When building or remodeling your house, opt for eco-friendly options like formaldehyde-free cabinetry, linoleum instead of vinyl flooring, low or no volatile organic compound (VOC) paints, etc.
Improve indoor air. In a late 1980s NASA study it was found that several houseplants act as natural air purifiers as they filter out common VOCs including formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene. Use at least two houseplants per 100 square feet of space. These plants should be in 10- to 12-inch pots.
Get indoor plants such as a fern, spider plant, peace lily, bamboo palm, aloe vera, and others. Make sure to keep the foliage dust-free. Also, do not overwater the plants as it may lead to mold growth.
Minimize the use of harsh cleaners and cleaners with strong fragrances at home. Avoid using aerosol sprays, too. And ensure adequate ventilation.
Do deep breathing exercises daily. Breathing feeds oxygen to every cell in the body. Without sufficient oxygen, people are more prone to lung problems and even heart disease.
With regular deep breathing exercises, you can easily strengthen your lungs. It can also help clear out toxins that may have built up in the lungs. This in turn helps improve lung performance and clear airways.
● Sit down in a relaxing and quiet place.
● Close your eyes, and breathe in deeply through your nose.
● Count to five, slowly inhaling the entire time.
● Hold your breath for a few seconds, then exhale slowly.
● Repeat this breathing exercise 6 to 8 times.
Perform this deep breathing exercise on a daily basis to help cleanse your lungs and keep you stress free.
Play a wind instrument. You can play a wind instrument like a flute, oboe, tuba, saxophone, mouth organ or clarinet to improve your lung health. You need to use your lungs’ capacity to the fullest to play any of these instruments. This gives your lungs a regular workout and helps improve their air capacity. Also, singing works the diaphragm and keeps your lungs healthy.
If music and singing are not for you, try to blow a balloon using deep breaths to increase lung capacity. Blow a few balloons daily to improve your lungs’ ability to pump more air, stronger and longer.
Eat the right foods.
The right mix of nutrients in your diet can help with healthy lung functions and cleanse your lungs of harmful toxins. Include detoxifying and antioxidant-rich foods and herbs like garlic, onion, cayenne pepper, ginger, oregano, turmeric, pomegranates, apples, grapefruit, green tea, peppermint, lungwort, chaparral and lobelia in your diet.
Include good sources of protein like milk, cheese, fish, nuts and poultry in your diet to help maintain strong respiratory muscles. Eat folate-rich foods like lentils and black beans to protect your lungs from COPD. Choose complex carbohydrates, such as whole-grain bread and pasta, fresh fruit and vegetables. At the same time, limit simple carbohydrates, including table sugar, candy, cake and regular soft drinks. Opt for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that do not contain cholesterol. Limit foods that contain trans-fat and saturated fat.
Be active with regular exercise. Exercising is a great way to increase lung capacity. With regular exercise, it will be easier for your lungs to keep your heart and muscles well supplied with oxygen. This in turn will help you enjoy a healthier heart and a better mood.
● Perform rigorous cardiovascular activities for at least 20 minutes, five days a week. Cardiovascular exercises strengthen the muscles that surround your lungs.
● Try aerobic exercises, such as walking, dancing or biking, a few days a week. Due to the short bursts of intense training during aerobic exercises, your lung capacity will develop a lot.
● Swim for 30 minutes, a few times a week.
Maintain proper hygiene.
People who are more susceptible to lung infections, which can lead to breathing difficulties, must practice proper hygiene. Proper hygiene helps prevent common infectious respiratory diseases like colds and the flu.
● Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
● Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when you do not have access to soap and water.
● Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or handkerchief while coughing or sneezing.
● Avoid crowded places during the cold and flu season.
● If you get sick, stay home until you are feeling better.
● Vacuum your home, especially the rugs and carpets, more often.
Get regular health checkups. Regular health checkups can help keep your lungs healthy and functioning properly. Remember, when it is about your health, prevention is always better than the cure. Most lung diseases go undetected until they are serious. However, during a health checkup, doctors can easily examine the condition of your lungs and pick up any trouble signs early.