Our lungs play a vital role in our daily lives, allowing us to breathe in the oxygen we need to survive while removing waste gases from our bodies. Although our bodies have a natural defense system to help protect our lungs from germs and unwanted materials, there are ways we can improve our lung health and keep them working at their best, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.
Why Are the Lungs Important?
The lungs are part of a group of organs and tissues, known as the respiratory system, that helps us breathe and moves oxygen around the body. Every cell in the body requires oxygen in order to survive, and when we breathe in air, oxygen and other gases are moved into the lungs and then dispersed into the bloodstream and carried around the body. Oxygen is then exchanged for a waste gas, called carbon dioxide, which is carried back to the lungs where it is removed from the bloodstream and exhaled, along with any other waste gases. This vital process is known as gas exchange.
Lung function can diminish with age and other factors, but there are things we can do to improve lung health and reduce the risk of lung diseases such as cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Cigarette smoke can not only cause the air passages to narrow, making breathing more difficult, it can also cause chronic inflammation (swelling) in the lungs, which over time can destroy lung tissue. Smoking can lead to conditions such as chronic bronchitis, and it is also a major cause of COPD and lung cancer. It is never too late to give up smoking, and the benefits of quitting, such as lowered blood pressure and improved lung function and blood circulation, can occur within a matter of days or weeks, dramatically improving your overall health.
Reduce Exposure to Indoor and Outdoor Pollutants
Levels of outdoor air pollution can vary depending on where you live, but emissions and fumes from cars, industrial buildings, and commercial businesses can pollute the air and harm respiratory health. Indoor pollutants such as chemicals in the home and workplace, secondhand smoke, mold, and radon, can also cause or worsen lung disease. Avoiding or minimizing exposure to these pollutants can significantly improve the health of your lungs. This can include avoiding exercising outdoors on bad air quality days or in heavily polluted areas, using a dehumidifier or an air conditioner in your home, and by keeping your home clean, well ventilated, and smoke-free.
Physical activity is key to keeping us healthy regardless of age, athletic ability, and physique. With regular physical activity, the body becomes more efficient at getting oxygen into the bloodstream and transporting it around the body.
Both aerobic exercise and muscle-strengthening activities can help to strengthen lungs, improve lung capacity (the amount of oxygen taken in with each breath), and improve overall health. Exercise can include anything that gets the body moving and the heart and lungs working harder, such as walking, running, gardening, swimming, bike-riding, and dancing. Muscle-strengthening activities such as yoga, Pilates, and weightlifting can improve core strength, posture, and lung capacity. They can also help strengthen the muscles around the chest and diaphragm.
Prevent Respiratory Infections
With cases of coronavirus continuing to rise, looking after lung health is even more important. Like many other respiratory illnesses, COVID-19 (the disease caused by coronavirus) can cause lasting lung damage. Even colds and other respiratory infections can sometimes become potentially serious, especially if you have lung disease. There are, however, preventative measures you can take to protect yourself, which can include:
- Washing your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based cleanser if you are unable to wash them.
- Avoiding crowds during the cold and flu season.
- Wearing a face mask and socially distancing when out in public.
- Getting a flu vaccination (and in some cases a pneumonia vaccine) every year.
Annual health checks and pulmonary function tests can help to prevent diseases and identify potential signs of lung or breathing problems before they become more serious. Lung disease can go undetected until it becomes serious.
Lung Specialist in Weatherford, Texas
If you have concerns about your lung health, Lung & Sleep Specialists of North Texas can perform a thorough evaluation of your lung health and function in order to diagnose and treat your pulmonary condition appropriately. We provide advanced diagnostic care and treatments for a variety of lung conditions. Our board-certified providers in internal medicine, pulmonary care, and critical care are experienced in developing a care plan that encompasses the whole person – not just treating isolated symptoms.
If you would like to learn more about the services we provide, or if you would like to schedule an appointment with one of our providers, call us today at (817) 594-9993 or request an appointment online.