During the fall and winter months especially, lung health is foremost in many people’s minds. Viruses are often flourishing during these cold, dry months, and respiratory problems increase. Keeping the lungs healthy depends on many interrelated factors including lifestyle and the living conditions that surround us.
After age 35, lung function and capacity begin to decline and breathing becomes gradually more difficult. So, it is important to take care of our lungs.
The Importance Of Lung Health
It is easy to not think about the importance of lung health until someone experiences a breathing problem. Genetics, disease, and the environment can affect the health of the lungs and cause respiratory problems. When our lung health is affected, it impacts the quality of everyday life and can prematurely shorten our lifespan. (1)
Since we need air every minute of our lives, the state of the air we breathe greatly affects our level of health. Recent studies have shown that nearly 50% of Americans and 90% of the world live in unhealthy air. (2)
According to new data from WHO, air pollution levels remain dangerously high in many parts of the world. “Air pollution threatens us all, but the poorest and most marginalized people bear the brunt of the burden,” says Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. (3)
Although the body has a natural defense system designed to protect the lungs, keeping dirt and germs at bay, what can we do to help protect our lung and respiratory health, especially if we live in areas of questionable air quality? Some important actions can be taken to reduce the risk of lung damage. Here are 10 ways to keep the lungs healthy.
8 Ways to Support Lung Health
1. Be Aware of Outdoor Air Quality
Ozone, also called smog, sulfur dioxide from burning coal, oil, and diesel near power plants and shipping docks, all contribute to poor air quality, especially in larger cities. The carbon monoxide from gasoline-powered vehicle emissions continues to increase with the world’s population and people’s love of the automobile. The introduction of electric vehicles looks to be a viable solution to improving the earth’s air quality.
Natural disasters like forest fires, volcanic eruptions, building fires, toxic chemical emissions, air inversions, and dirty smokestacks put millions of dangerous particles and toxins into the air. Know local air quality monitoring agencies and check them often. Wear a mask outdoors if necessary.
2. Improve Indoor Air Quality
Be aware of chemicals, cleaning supplies, environmental irritants like artificial air fresheners. The use of an air filtering system may prove beneficial for challenging indoor environments.
3. Avoid Infections
Cold and flu seasons can be particularly challenging, especially if the lungs are already compromised from preexisting conditions. Common practices like washing hands frequently, avoiding crowds, brushing teeth at least twice a day, and staying home until feeling better can help to navigate through high infectious times.
4. Get Vaccinations, Manage Allergies
Flu and pneumonia vaccines have gone a long way toward helping protect against lung infections. Older people, children, and individuals with reduced lung function can benefit from getting these vaccines before becoming ill. Allergies may not be avoidable but they can be managed with medications, remedies, and sometimes inhalers and room humidifiers.
Daily Routines To Support Lung Health
5. Eat Antioxidant and Iron-rich Foods for Respiratory Health
Antioxidants contribute to the neutralization of free radicals in our bodies that destroy lung cells. While our body creates antioxidants naturally, some don’t occur unless obtained through an outside food or supplement source. Foods that contain the highest levels of antioxidants are typically plant-based.
Iron-rich foods such as eggs, red meat, dark green leafy vegetables, beans, and shellfish are healthy choices. Iron helps transport oxygen throughout the body, keeps muscles working, and supports the immune system, key to fighting infections and inflammation.
Make sure to eat some of the following whole foods every day. (6)
- Vegetables: leeks, onions and garlic, eggplant, pumpkin, carrots, spinach, parsley, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, sweet potatoes
- Fruit: grapes, berries, mangoes, apricots, tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon, oranges
- Legumes or beans
- Whole-grain breads, cereals, and seeds like sesame and pumpkin
- Lean meat, poultry, and protein including fish and eggs
- Dairy and dairy alternatives
- Olive, avocado, or nut oils
- Red wine and chocolate
6. Drink Plenty of Water for Respiratory Health
Drinking enough clean water is as important for the lungs as it is for the rest of the body. Water helps keep mucus thin to better function as a protective layer to trap foreign particles and toxins in our airways. Other drinks that help detoxify the body and fight off the effects of pollutants include:
- Honey and hot water
- Green tea
- Cinnamon water
- Ginger and turmeric tea
7. Exercise Often for Respiratory Health
Aerobic activities like walking, running, or jumping rope, give the heart and lungs the kind of workout they need to function efficiently. Muscle-strengthening activities such as weight-lifting or Pilates build core strength, improving posture, and toning breathing muscles. Breathing exercises can also strengthen the lungs and help increase lung capacity.
8. Consider Natural Products for Respiratory Health
There are many natural plants, minerals, and botanicals that are known to help support lung health such as medicinal mushrooms, omega-3s, vitamins D and E as well as turmeric. When taken routinely as supplements to daily meals, they can contribute to the overall optimal functioning of the lungs. When elements conspire to attack the lungs, having long-term underlying daily support strengthens the lung’s ability to fight back.
- Respiratory Health Association. 2020. Healthy Lungs – Respiratory Health Association. [online] Available at: <https://resphealth.org/healthy-lungs/> [Accessed 29 October 2020].
- Lung.org. 2020. More Than 4 In 10 Americans Live With Unhealthy Air; Eight Cities Suffered Most Polluted Air Ever Recorded | American Lung Association. [online] Available at: <https://www.lung.org/media/press-releases/sota-2019> [Accessed 29 October 2020].
- Who.int. 2020. 9 Out Of 10 People Worldwide Breathe Polluted Air, But More Countries Are Taking Action. [online] Available at: <https://www.who.int/news/item/02-05-2018-9-out-of-10-people-worldwide-breathe-polluted-air-but-more-countries-are-taking-action> [Accessed 29 October 2020].
- Lung.org. 2020. Tips To Keep Your Lungs Healthy. [online] Available at: <https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/wellness/protecting-your-lungs> [Accessed 29 October 2020].
- Cdc.gov. 2020. What Are The Risk Factors For Lung Cancer? | CDC. [online] Available at: <https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/lung/basic_info/risk_factors.htm> [Accessed 29 October 2020].
- Betterhealth.vic.gov.au. 2020. Antioxidants. [online] Available at: <https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/antioxidants> [Accessed 29 October 2020].