Your lungs are valuable organs and absolutely essential for your health, and thankfully they do the lion’s share of maintenance on their own. The lungs are self-cleaning, which means they can heal themselves after exposure to pollutants and pathogens in the air. Generally, pathogens and pollutants are caught in mucus, which is then cleared from the system in a person with healthy lungs.
Unfortunately, prolonged exposure to pollutants and age can contribute to a worsening of the lung’s ability to protect itself and function properly. We outline five things you can do to immediately help you keep your lungs in the best shape possible.
1. Stop Smoking
This is the most obvious tip, but it’s also the most important for those who smoke or have a history of smoking. Those who smoke not only significantly increase their chances of lung cancer, but of many other diseases that affect both the lungs and the rest of the body. Smoking accounts for 8 out of 10 COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) deaths, for instance, and can worsen the symptoms of asthma.
Smoking involves breathing in a dangerous cocktail of chemicals, many of which are toxic to the human body, such as carbon monoxide. Over time, smoking can deteriorate the lungs’ ability to clean themselves and can narrow the airways, eventually making it difficult to breathe. The chemicals can also contribute to the worsening of lung cells from normal to cancerous. As you smoke, your lungs also become inflamed and can eventually lead to chronic bronchitis.
The sooner you stop smoking the better, and it’s never too late to make the decision. If you live with a smoker or you’re consistently in contact with smokers, be aware of your exposure to second-hand smoke and try to avoid the smoke whenever possible. Advocate for your own health when necessary, either seeking assistance to stop smoking or to create a healthier environment.
2. Avoid Pollutants
Avoiding pollutants can include the most obvious, such as second-hand smoke, but also the general air pollution in a big city.
While it’s difficult, if not impossible, to avoid pollution entirely in large urban areas, the air quality can vary by day and also by the time. If you like to run outside, an activity that would normally be positive for lung health, try to avoid running during high traffic times when air pollution would be at its highest. Alternatively, finding a location away from traffic, preferably a park or trail with dense vegetation that can mitigate pollution, can be a great spot to get some lung-healthy exercise.
Don’t forget that your occupation can also contribute to your exposure to pollutants. Certain jobs, such as construction and waste management, can increase your exposure to pollutants. Wearing a protective mask and other gear can help you keep your lungs healthy in these environments.
Aside from avoiding second-hand smoke and quitting smoking, this is the best advice for keeping your lungs in good shape. Exercise offers benefits for your entire body, and your lungs are no exception.
Exercise forces your heart and lungs to work harder in order to provide much-needed oxygen to your muscles. As your body intakes and distributes oxygen, your lungs will also be busy ridding themselves of carbon dioxide. The more you exercise, the more efficient and effective your lungs become at their job.
The more effective your lungs become, the more resistant you will be to chronic diseases and the slower you will age.
4. Breathe from the Diaphragm
Learning how to breathe from the diaphragm will help you take sufficiently deep breaths. Most people breathe shallowly from the chest, and don’t take full advantage of their available lung capacity.
The benefits of deep breathing are manifold. For starters, breathing deeply can help improve lung function over time. Like exercise, consistent deep breathing helps improve lung efficiency, but can also cause you to feel more relaxed, less stressed, and improve your mood. While consistent stress can age your body and worsen the chances of disease, deep breathing is a valuable counter.
In order to execute deep breathing successfully, be sure to pay attention to the rise and fall of your abdomen. While laying flat on your bed or the floor, place a book on your abdomen and focus on lifting the book with your breathing. This will help you become more accustomed to the feeling of using your lungs’ full capacity.
As with any part of your body, hydration is invaluable for regulating the lungs’ proper function. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will help your body expel toxins, all the while thinning the mucus lining in the lungs, helping your lungs function more efficiently.
Green tea, too, can be a valuable addition to your diet. Drinking green tea can help reduce inflammation and keep lung tissue healthier for longer.
While on the topic of breathing and airflow, one of the best activities you can do for your lungs is laughing. Laughing empties the lungs, sending more air out than accepting incoming air. As a result, your body becomes more oxygenated and this can, in turn, help people suffering from respiratory diseases, like asthma.
Sign Up for a Lung Screen
If you meet the risk factors that suggest regular lung screening, setting up a scan to monitor your lung health is an easy process. Advanced Body Scan of Tulsa offers lung scans for those who wish to take it. To schedule or ask about a scan, visit our website or call us at 918.879.6161.