Our lungs play an unparalleled role in our survival and well-being by providing oxygen to each cell of our body. From the environment we breathe in, to the foods we consume, our lifestyle choices impact our lung health and functionality, which in turn affects our quality of life.
Today, lung health is more important than ever. More than 700,000 people lose their lives each year in America due to lung-related diseases such as asthma, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, pneumonia, influenza, and sarcoidosis. This number has grown significantly with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. Healthy lungs can prolong your life and strengthen your immunity against diseases by providing optimal oxygen levels to your organs for improved performance.
In this article, we share the seven most actionable lifestyle changes you can adopt for healthier lungs.
- Reduce Toxin Exposure
Lung-damaging toxins are present in cigarette smoke and environments with asbestos-containing dust and materials. These harmful toxins inflame and scar lung tissue and reduce lung capacity. Over time, these conditions can lead to highly fatal mesothelioma and lung cancer. To steer clear of these risks, quit smoking, avoid second-hand smoke, and take precautions against asbestos exposure from natural deposits as well as old construction and manufacturing materials.
Quitting smoking and avoiding spaces with cigarette smoke requires a reorientation of not just your habits but also your social life. Similarly, making thoughtful adjustments in your daily activities to protect against asbestos exposure can also be challenging. Thankfully, there are options for therapy, counseling, and support groups that provide qualified guidance to help you. However, if you or your loved ones have been diagnosed with asbestos-related lung diseases, including mesothelioma or lung cancer, the attorneys and patient advocates at Lung Cancer Group can help you find legal aid, support, treatment options, and helpful resources.
- Avoid Air Pollution
Air pollution, caused by industrial activities, vehicular emissions, and natural or man-made fire, also poses a serious threat to our respiratory health. In 2013, the International Agency for Research on Cancer declared air pollution carcinogenic. A carcinogen can cause cancer when combined with specific factors such as the length of exposure and genetics.
To counter the risks of air pollution affecting lung health, wear a mask in polluted environments and avoid busy roads to protect yourself from car exhaust emissions. Adjust your outdoor activities according to the air quality index and keep home, office, and car windows closed during high pollution times.
Just as in the outdoors, the air quality at home and offices is also important for our lung health. Ensure good ventilation of closed spaces and use air filters to remove allergens and pollutants. Discourage indoor smoking and reduce the use of strong-smelling products to clean indoor air.
- Exercise Regularly
Physical activity strengthens your respiratory muscles, enhances lung capacity, and improves oxygen flow through the body. This is why regular exercise is one of the most potent choices you can make to contribute to your lung health. Consult a doctor before you start an exercise regimen, especially when you have any pre-existing lung issues.
Incorporate cardio exercises of cycling, swimming, jogging, and walking in your daily routine. Not only do these activities promote cardiovascular health and healthy weight, but they also allow your lungs to fully expand to increase their capacity. At the same time, physical activity improves blood circulation and facilitates the delivery of oxygen to the tissues, including the lungs.
- Eat Healthy
Making healthy diet choices is an integral lifestyle change for healthier lungs, as they depend on essential nutrients and antioxidants to perform at optimal levels and fight off illnesses. Choose a diet rich in vegetables and fruits as they contain the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that protect lung tissues against damage by pollutants. Add healthy fats to your diet by incorporating avocados, nuts, and olive oil for combatting lung inflammation,
Add protein through poultry, fish, and legumes to gain amino acids required to repair lung tissue and improve immunity. Adding fish to your diet also provides omega-3 fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory properties to benefit your lung health. Along with healthy food choices, you must also stay well-hydrated as that keeps the respiratory tract mucus thin for clearing out irritants.
5. Keep Your Hands Clean
Respiratory infections, including pneumonia, influenza, and coronavirus, can severely damage your lung health and lead to complications that can also be fatal. One of the first defenses you have against contracting these infections is the simple act of frequently washing or sanitizing your hands as they come in direct contact with surfaces and can transfer bacteria and viruses to the mouth and nose.
Make frequent handwashing a habit, especially after any surface or human contact in a public or social space. As soap and water cannot be accessible at all times, carrying a hand sanitizer with you can help you keep up with regular hand hygiene.
6. Make Proactive Preventative Choices
Strengthen your defense against preventable respiratory diseases of coronavirus disease, pneumonia, and influenza by getting vaccinated. Vaccination reduces the likelihood of contracting respiratory infections, and in case the infection does occur, it keeps the symptoms’ severity low.
Increase your protection with a face mask when you’re in a toxic/polluted environment, a public place, or a social setting. Practice social distancing, especially when infections are spreading, and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
7. Practice Deep Breathing
Take time out every day to practice deep breathing through meditation and yoga. Deep breathing increases the capacity of the lungs for better respiratory function and oxygen supply. Breathing exercises impact the efficiency of the diaphragm muscle, which is responsible for the expansion and contraction of the lungs. This leads to better oxygen delivery to body tissues, energizing the cells to function optimally.
Practicing deep breathing also benefits your lungs through psychological responses. These exercises turn on your body’s relaxation response, which aids in alleviating shortness of breath due to anxiety or stress.
Making conscious choices in your lifestyle is essential to efficiently prevent and manage respiratory illnesses ranging from flu that may ruin your week to lung cancer that could potentially take your life. We hope this writing helps you plan your path toward healthier lungs and a better life.