For the most part, we expect our lungs to breathe for us every day without thinking about taking care of them so they keep doing their job. While your body has a natural defense system to keep dirt and germs away from your lungs, here are six things you can do to keep your lungs healthy:
Cigarette smoking in the U.S. is at an all-time low, but it is still the leading cause of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Cigarette smoke can narrow the air passages and cause difficulty breathing. It causes chronic swelling, which can lead to chronic bronchitis. Eventually, it destroys lung tissue and can spark cell changes that grow into cancer. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, you can benefit from quitting no matter how long you’ve smoked. The American Lung Association can help.
Avoid indoor pollutants
Secondhand smoke, chemicals in your home and workplace, and radon can cause or worsen lung disease. Don’t smoke in your home or car, and don’t let others do so. Test your home for radon, a colorless, odorless radioactive gas. It can build up in homes and over time cause lung cancer. Testing is the only way to find out the level. Talk to your health care provider if you think something at your home, school, or work could be making you sick.
Be aware of outdoor air pollution
The air quality outside varies from day to day. Outdoor air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, impact the healthy development of children, and damage lung health overall. When the local weather service issues an air quality alert, limit your time outdoors. Minimizing exposure to outdoor pollution can help protect your lungs.
A cold or respiratory infection can become serious. Avoid getting sick by taking these precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If you can’t, use alcohol-based cleaners
- Avoid crowds during flu season, which can start as early as October and run as late as May. It generally peaks from December to February
- Practicing good oral hygiene can prevent tooth and gum problems and protect your overall health. Brush your teeth at least twice a day and see your dentist at least once every six months
- Get a flu shot every year. Ask your doctor if you need a pneumonia vaccine
- If you get sick, stay home! Limit close contact with your family, too, until you feel better
Get regular checkups
Seeing your health care provider regularly, even when you feel fine, can prevent disease. That’s especially true for lung disease, which sometimes goes undetected until it’s serious.
No matter your age, weight, or health condition, being active will strengthen your lungs and help keep them healthy. If you have concerns about your physical abilities, talk with your health care provider.