Strong lungs are critical to good health. The risks of Covid-19 infections and the severity the disease can have on the respiratory tract intensified the focus on proper lung health.
However, COVID-19 is not the only disease that can negatively affect lung health. Numerous lung illnesses count to the most dangerous conditions that can have long-term effects on your health.
According to information from the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease, 1.76 million people die from lung cancer each year, making it the deadliest cancer.
Other statistics reveal that approximately 334 million people have asthma. Affecting 14% of children globally, asthma is also the most common chronic childhood disease.
While most people know about the importance of lung health, not many are actively working on improving it.
However, making changes toward healthier lungs doesn’t have to be complicated.
“Exercise, especially aerobic exercise, can play a key role in improving your lung health or keeping your lungs healthy,” said Michael Galvan, respiratory therapy supervisor at AdventHealth Central Texas. “Also, avoiding pollution and not smoking are other ways you can improve your lung health.”
According to the World Health Organization, tobacco smoke, either active smoking or secondhand smoke, is the primary cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Research suggests that 65 million people suffer from COPD, and 3 million die from it each year, making it the third leading cause of death worldwide.
Although COPD is not curable and patients may have to deal with long-lasting effects once their lungs are damaged, it’s not too late to make significant changes to relieve symptoms, improve the quality of life and reduce the risk of death.
“There are some steps you can take to help,” Galvan said. “Smoking damages lung cilia, which are tiny hair-like structures on the surface cells found in your lungs as well as other parts of the body. They trap particles and prevents them from settling in the airways. If someone stops smoking, the lung cilia will once again begin to work correctly, keeping the lungs clean and free from infection.”
Exercise can further increase lung functionality.
“Exercise will improve lung health by helping your body use oxygen more efficiently,” Galvan said. “Aerobic exercise is good because the steady rhythmic pace helps your heart and lungs by improving their endurance.”
Weight training can help build muscle mass in your chest to form a strong chest wall and diaphragm, which are crucial to supporting a robust pulmonary system.
Wearing masks to prevent inhaling allergens or pollutants such as smog and traffic fumes when the air-quality index suggests dangerous counts can also help protect your lungs.
Experts also recommend wearing masks when doing yard work or dusty home-improvement projects to prevent irritating the lining of the airways, which can lead to chronic lung diseases.
If you are experiencing acute illness, discomfort or a medical emergency with your lungs, consult a doctor.
“As with any illness, you should work with your doctor to find a treatment plan that is right for you,” Galvan said. “They can prescribe medication to treat acute issues and other medications such as inhaled steroids and long-acting bronchodilators designed to prevent problems from flaring up.”