How to Keep Your Lungs Healthy All Year Round
Take a deep breath and ask yourself: When is the last time you thought about your lungs? Chances are, you inhale and exhale every day without paying any attention to it. But just because you aren’t focused on what your lungs are doing doesn’t mean they aren’t important. Your lungs are amazing, they take in 13 pints of air every minute to provide oxygen to your blood cells, which then carry it to the rest of your body. But to do their job well, you do need to take care of them. Here are a few of the best ways to keep them in peak condition:
- Avoid smoking and vaping: While traditional cigarette alternatives like e-cigarettes, hookah pens and vapes may help you quit smoking, they still pose some health risks. E-cigarettes can contain propylene glycol that when heated can degrade into formaldehyde, a chemical linked to increased risk of asthma and cancer. Also, the FDA does not regulate e-cigarettes, so there’s no way to know for sure what is in them.
- Reduce air pollution: The quality of the air you breathe affects your lung health. Dust, mold and chemicals can accumulate in your home, especially in the winter when airflow is minimal. You can reduce your exposure to chemicals and other toxins by getting an air purifier at home or work. Also avoid exercising outdoors on bad air days, which usually occur in the summer.
- Watch your posture: Your lungs are made up of soft tissue, and as you breathe, they inflate and deflate with air. Practicing good posture will help make more room for your lungs and make it easier to take deeper, fuller breaths. An easy way to do this is by leaning back slightly in a chair, lifting your chest and opening the front of your body as you breathe deeply.
- Stay hydrated: While you should already be drinking plenty of water to help balance the loss of fluids, it’s also key to keeping your lungs healthy and happy. That’s because dehydration has a negative effect on lung function. Also, using a humidifier at night can help keep your airways moist, especially with dry winter air. A good rule of thumb: If your mouth feels dry, then your airways are dry.
- Practice breathing exercises: Breathing exercises are an easy way to help your lungs work more efficiently. While it seems simple, it can take time to master breathing exercises, so work up to practicing five to 10 minutes every day. Laughing is also a great breathing exercise: It increases lung capacity by working the abdominal muscles to force air in and out of the lungs.
- Increase lung capacity: Aerobic exercise helps improve your lung capacity by increasing how much air your body is using. Each week, the average adult should be getting around 75 to 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity (pick a cardio exercise you love).
If you have lung disease, talk to your doctor before doing any breathing or aerobic exercise. Stop immediately and rest if you experience any of these symptoms:
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Severe shortness of breath
- Pressure or pain in your chest, arm, neck, jaw or shoulder
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