This week is Breathe Easy Week, a timely reminder to us all to look after our lungs. Your lungs are one of your body’s most important organs, so it’s essential that you look after them.
Good lung health is dependent on a number of factors, from exercising and eating healthily to avoiding smoking and other harmful activities. Looking after your lungs can ensure you stay healthy through to old age and help your body to breathe easily.
The theme of this year’s Breathe Easy Week is ‘Love Your Lungs’, so with that in mind, you can read more about the importance of looking after your lungs both now and for your future.
Why your lungs are important
Your lungs are the major organ that makes up the respiratory system, which help to provide the rest of your body with oxygen and removes waste gases like carbon dioxide. They also help you to cough or sneeze, which can also help to expel harmful substances.
Healthy adult lungs have a capacity of around 6 litres, and while babies will take 30-60 breaths a minute, adults 12-20. You’ll notice as you exercise, you breathe quicker, which is your lungs’ response to your body needing more oxygen during physical activity.
When your lungs are unhealthy, you run the risk of developing a number of conditions including lung cancer, bronchitis, emphysema and others. Many lung conditions are preventable through demonstrating better lung health.
Looking after your lungs
There are several things you can to to look after your lungs, including:
Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, as well as many other lung conditions. According to Cancer Research UK, more than 8 out of 10 lung cancer cases are caused by smoking. Your risk of getting lung cancer increases the more and longer you smoke, and secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer too.
Giving up smoking with Smokefree will help improve your lung health as well as reduce your risk of getting lung cancer over time.
As well as smoking, there are other harmful pollutants that can affect your lungs. Different chemicals, secondhand smoke and household products and aerosols can all cause damage that could contribute to a lung condition. Avoid these harmful chemicals where possible and wear a mask if needed when dealing with strong chemicals at home and at work.
Protect yourself against respiratory infections
In the winter months, in particular, your body is more susceptible to viruses which can affect your lungs. Good hygiene can help you to ward off colds and flu, and a flu vaccine can help you avoid contracting the condition – particularly in vulnerable people. If you do come down with something, stay home to prevent it infecting others and make sure you rest up to stop it progressing into bronchitis or pneumonia
Exercise is essential for maintaining a strong cardiovascular system. As your lungs work harder to get oxygen to your heart and other muscles, they’ll grow stronger. It’s recommended that adults complete 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week, which can include walking, running and high intensity training that will encourage your lungs to work hard. As you progress with your exercise regime, you’ll find that breathing becomes easier and walking long distances or walking uphill become less tiresome.
Healthy eating is another way to keep your lungs strong. Getting a balanced intake of nutrients will help provide your body with what it needs, improving overall health. Eating a balanced diet can also help you to maintain a healthy weight, meaning your lungs won’t have to work quite as hard during exercise.
Doing your bit to help others
You can help others to look after their lungs by making sensible lifestyle choices. Using your bike, walking or switching to an electric car can help you to reduce carbon emissions that will contribute to cleaner air. Giving up smoking also helps others around you, so giving up will benefit others as well as yourself.
Taking care of your lungs requires a number of different things, but they will all help to improve your breathing, as well as your overall health. Remember, if you suspect a lung condition, get it checked out by your GP as soon as possible. If you experience difficulty breathing you should go to your nearest A&E department.