Important tips preserving lung health for life

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Important tips preserving lung health for life

Be honest, do you really think much about taking care of your lungs?  Usually not unless we are experiencing problems breathing in which case we will for sure take notice.  Our lungs play a vital role in keeping us strong and healthy and like the rest of our body, need daily care and attention.

What is the function of our lungs?

Each time we inhale, air flows into the lungs through our windpipe or trachea to fill tiny air sacs within the lungs. Our windpipe divides into two tubes called the bronchi, which lead to our left and right lungs.  Blood that is circulating around these air sacs will pick up the oxygen we breathe in and then carry it to cells in the rest of our body while carbon dioxide passes out of the blood to be exhaled. 

However, as we age, our lung function declines.  In fact, the average person who lives to age 80 will have taken more than 672 million breaths during their lifetime, yet these breaths in someone age 60 and older, are different from those taken when a person is younger. 

Our lungs are finished developing by age 25 and their function will remain stable for about 10 years.  After that, they begin to gradually decline so that by age 65, most of us will have lost up to a liter of lung capacity compared with when we were younger.

Factors aging our lungs

As we age, both the airways and blood vessels become stiffer and the air sacs expand, which makes it difficult for gases to move into the bloodstream.  You may notice becoming winded after simply doing every day activities such as walking a short distance or climbing a small flight of stairs.  Strenuous exercise may also become a problem making you feel tired afterward.

Other factors contributing to our lungs aging include:

·      Smoking

·      Exposure to air pollution

·      Repeated respiratory infections

·      Poor posture can make our chest smaller and stiffer.  This makes it harder for us to fully expand when breathing, reducing the volume of air the lungs can hold. 

·      The diaphragm, the muscle that supports breathing, can also weaken with age preventing the ability to take in full breaths.

Anyone experiencing shortness of breath during simple activities - pain when breathing, dizziness with a change in activity, a persistent cough, wheezing with exercise, cough associated with exercise, or pain in the airway - should see their doctor as their lungs could be damaged or could indicate a serious illness such as COPD, emphysema, or lung cancer

Tips to keep lungs in top shape

Since our lungs are a vital organ we need to remain alive, it only makes sense to take good care of them.  Here are ways to keep lungs functioning at their optimal best:

·      Do core and upper body strength – Weight training is vital for increasing bone strength. Performing moves such as chest and shoulder presses and dead lifts can strengthen the chest, shoulders, and back muscles.  This can help maintain posture making it easier to breathe more efficiently taking fuller breaths.

·      Eat more fruit – A study in the European Respiratory Journal, found that a higher intake of antioxidant- and flavonoid-rich fruit, like bananas, apples, and tomatoes, was associated with a slower decline in lung function, especially among ex-smokers.  It is suggested that four servings a day of fruit is beneficial for preventing this decline in lung function.

·      Get in endurance exercise – Not only is weight lifting important for lung function, but also aerobic or endurance exercise can improve lung capacity which is the amount of oxygen taken in with each breath.  Endurance exercise would include walking a greater distance or include walks with hills or walking holding weights to boost more of a challenge.  This can increase the intensity and variability of workouts that raises heartrate while increasing breathing to improve lung capacity.

·      Get vaccinated – Having repeated bouts of infections like pneumonia can damage lungs and airways.  It is important to get both a flu shot and pneumonia vaccine.

·      Pay attention to your posture – Since the lungs are soft organs, they only take up the room you make for them.  Each day, check your posture to make more room for the lungs.  Throughout the day, sit up tall and reach overhead.  Another simple technique is to lean back slightly in a stable chair, lift the chest and open the front of the body as you breathe deeply.

·      Stay well-hydrated – Getting enough water is as important for the lungs as it is for the rest of the body.  Staying well-hydrated by taking in fluids throughout the day helps keep the mucosal lining in the lungs thin.  This thinner lining helps the lungs function better. 

·      Laugh a lot – Laughing is a great exercise to work the abdominal muscles and increase lung capacity.  It clears out the lungs by forcing enough stale air out that it allows fresh air to enter into more areas of the lungs.