Healthy Lung Month
Carla Hay-Perdue, DNP, APRN, FNP, ANP-BC, NC-BC
Community Education Coordinator/ Family Nurse Practitioner at Palo Pinto General Hospital
October 19, 2021
Did you know that humans breathe in about 11,000 liters of air a day? To easily do this, we need to take care of our lungs. We don’t think about breathing except when we have trouble, so that is why October is Healthy Lung Month!
The lungs are organs in the chest responsible for moving air in and out of the body. Air enters the lungs, and oxygen transfers from the lungs into the bloodstream when we breathe in. The lungs also transfer the waste products (carbon dioxide) from the blood to the lungs so it can be breathed out. The brain controls how fast or slow we breathe by sensing how much oxygen the body needs and how much carbon dioxide should be expelled.
How can we keep our lungs healthy?
1. Don’t Smoke – Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Cigarette smoke can narrow the air passages and make breathing more difficult. It also causes chronic inflammation and swelling in the lung. Over time cigarette smoke destroys lung tissue and triggers changes that grow into cancer. E-cigarettes are harmful also. E-cigarettes produce many dangerous chemicals, including acetaldehyde and formaldehyde, that cause lung disease and cardiovascular disease. E-cigarettes also contain acrolein, a herbicide primarily used to kill weeds. It can cause acute lung injury and COPD and may cause asthma and lung cancer.
2. Get moving– Regular exercise is excellent for your lungs. The muscles work harder, and your body uses more oxygen during exercise. Exercise makes your muscles stronger, and it also makes your lungs and heart stronger. As your fitness level improves, your body becomes more efficient in getting oxygen into the bloodstream and transporting it to the working muscles. Exercise can also strengthen the neck and chest muscles, including the diaphragm and the muscles between the ribs. These muscles work together to power inhaling and exhaling.
3. Breathe Clean air – The air you breathe has a powerful influence on the health of the lungs. Check the air quality before you leave the house. If the quality is bad, stay indoors. Air pollution is not just an outdoor problem. Fireplaces, wood stoves, fumes, mold, pet dander, candles, and air fresheners can also cause lung issues.
4. Eat healthily– The proper nutrients in the diet can help us breathe easier. There are some foods and nutrients that help support lung function. For example, vitamin D and E play an important role in boosting the immune system and helps to reduce airway inflammation. Low levels of Vitamin D are linked to an increased risk of asthma. Food sources of vitamin D include fortified milk, salmon, orange juice, and eggs. Vitamin E contains a chemical called tocopherol, which may decrease the risk of some asthma symptoms like coughing or wheezing. Foods that contain E include almonds, raw seeds, Swiss chard, mustard greens, kale, broccoli, and hazelnuts. If you have asthma, Sulfates may trigger an attack. These chemicals are found in dried fruit. Some pickled foods, shrimp, maraschino cherries, bottled lemon or lime juices, and alcohol, also contain sulfate. Foods that cause gas or bloating can make breathing more difficult. Gassy foods include beans, carbonated drinks, onions, garlic, and fried foods.
5. Get vaccinated– Vaccines stimulate the immune system to produce the same antibodies you would make if you were exposed to the actual disease. There are vaccines against several respiratory viruses to keep our lungs healthy. These include: COVID -19, influenza, pneumonia, and pertussis.
Don’t take your lungs for granted. Take steps to protect them and see your provider for a check-up even when you are feeling well.
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American Lung Association (2021). Exercise and Lung Health. Retrieved from Exercise and Lung Health | American Lung Association
American Lung Association (2018). Asthma and Nutrition: How food affects your lungs. Retrieved from Asthma and Nutrition: How Food Affects Your Lungs | American Lung Association
American Lung Association. Vaccines that protect against infectious respiratory diseases. Retrieved from Vaccines that Protect Against Respiratory Disease | American Lung Association
American Lung Association. The impact of E-cigarettes on the lung. Retrieved from Health Risks of E-Cigarettes and Vaping | American Lung Association