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The lungs are a unique organ, and part of a system designed to protect them. Mucus membranes line the nose, mouth, throat and airways and trap germs, dirt and particles before they enter the lungs. Mucus also stops foreign matter from travelling through the respiratory system, and cilia (tiny hairs) catch dirt and germs and move them up to where they can be coughed up, or swallowed.
The lungs are protected by many defenses, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need their “person” to take care of them. So many people worry about weight, the heart, the kidneys, the digestive system, etc., but overlook the many ways they could care for their respiratory system. It’s important to consider the ways that a person can care for their lungs, bronchi, trachea, diaphragm, etc. A few simple considerations can lead to a much healthier respiratory system. Lungs supply oxygen to the blood and remove carbon dioxide and other gases from the body. Anything that you breathe in can directly affect your lungs.
The easiest way to keep your lungs healthy is to consider what you are breathing in:
- Quit Smoking
Smoking is the main cause of lung cancer and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Cigarette smoke narrows the air passages in the lungs and makes breathing more difficult. It’s never too late to quit smoking.
- Second Hand Smoke
Lung cancer and COPD can be caused by inhaling the smoke from other smokers. Just because you are not smoking the cigarette, does not mean it’s not directly affecting your lungs and respiratory system.
- Air Pollution
Air pollution can cause problems for all people, especially for those with lung disease. Irritation, inflammation, and damage to lung tissue is all possible due to airborne irritants. People with certain jobs (construction, refineries and unventilated office buildings) are also at an increased risk for lung diseases. If a job involves large amounts of dust, asbestos or chemicals, proper clothing, masks and ventilation should be used.
- Wash Your Hands Frequently
Common respiratory infections like colds and the flu are spread by hands through touching infected surfaces and then touching the mouth, eyes, nose, etc. By using proper handwashing techniques, and washing the hands regularly, the risk of infection is greatly reduced.
- Keep the Air Inside your Home Clean
Many people take for granted the quality of air in their homes. Dust, chemical cleaners and moisture can pollute the air inside your home. Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens to vent moisture, keep counters, bathtubs and other wet areas dry and wipe away dust to control the air quality in your home. Opening windows and letting fresh air in as frequently as possible is also important, especially when painting, cleaning or installing new carpet.
- Use Caution During Cold and Flu Season
If illnesses are going around in your area, avoid large crowds and use proper handwashing techniques and alcohol based hand sanitizers.
- Get Vaccinated
Flu vaccinations help prevent influenza and other serious infections caused by the flu. Getting vaccinated protects the lungs by preventing the infections that can cause damage to lungs and lung tissue.
- Get a Physical
Visiting your doctor regularly for check-ups is a proactive way to prevent lung disease and detect problems in the early stages. By being honest with your physician about your health, changes in your body and new symptoms, your doctor will best be able to complete testing and prescribe treatments.
Educating yourself and your loved ones about respiratory health is key to maintaining healthy lungs. Breathing is required for life, but often taken for granted. Knowing the many ways that a person can take care of the lungs is key to prevention of disease and easy breathing for years to come as well as ensuring quality of life for future years.