It's easy to take for granted something we involuntarily do thousands of times a day. I'm talking about breathing, that vital act of inhaling and exhaling air that keeps us healthy, alert and most importantly alive. Compromise this effortless action of breathing with unhealthy lungs, and the importance and appreciation of a simple breath skyrockets. Your lungs are your body's life source, so protect them as you would anything precious and valuable.
LISTEN TO YOUR LUNGS
Maybe you've noticed that you get winded more easily climbing the stairs, that you can't run the bases with your kids like you used to, or you've acquired a chronic cough and are finding respiratory infections occur more frequently. Don't ignore these health warnings, especially if you are a smoker. A simple lung breathing test called a spirometry can detect a lung problem before it becomes severe.
Cigarette smoking is a major cause of lung illness, primarily chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Both of these conditions follow a gradual progression of worsening, so it's paramount to stop the source of the damaging irritant. There is no better way to halt or slow down this process than quitting smoking. Exposure to cigarette smoke irritates and inflames the airways of the lungs, increasing excess mucus and reducing airflow and initiating chronic bronchitis. Over time, lung tissue is destroyed, leading to emphysema, where less oxygen is exchanged throughout the bloodstream, causing shortness of breath, especially with physical activity. People with emphysema are able to inhale air, but find it increasingly difficult to exhale. Emphysema is irreversible, but with a doctor's care, symptoms can be managed and the disease process slowed. Quitting smoking is crucial in the prevention and treatment of COPD.
KEEP YOUR LUNGS HEALTHY AND SAFE
Protecting your lungs means breathing clean air. Keep the air inside your home and car clean by not allowing anyone to smoke. Second-hand smoke contains thousands of chemicals and is as unhealthy and dangerous as the smoke inhaled by the smoker. Get your home tested for radon, the second most significant cause of lung cancer, the "first" being smoking. Be sure to ventilate your home; open windows to let fresh air in and toxins out. If you live in an area where pollution levels are high, consider exercising in a gym or walking inside a shopping mall. The quality of the air you breathe affects the health of your lungs.
Being physically fit, eating a balanced diet, and protecting yourself from respiratory infections all contribute to keeping your lungs as healthy as possible. Like other vital organs, the lungs also benefit from the supply of oxygen provided by physical activity. Oxygen is food for the body, so keep those arms and legs moving. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables when balancing your diet; they contain antioxidant protection and help boost your immune system. A history of smoking leaves you more vulnerable to lung infections, so get a yearly flu shot and ask your doctor if you would benefit from a pneumonia vaccine. Keep soaping up; good hand washing is still the best defense against getting sick.
Safeguard your lungs to give them the care needed to allow you to live the best life possible. If you are still smoking, you need to stop now. If you have already quit, you need to remain quit forever-one day at a time. It is never too late to quit smoking, even if you have been diagnosed with lung disease. Quitting smoking prevents further damage. Be aware and eliminate pollutants you may be inhaling. If you have lung illness, take the prescribed medications and follow your doctor's advice. By keeping your lungs healthy and safe, you enable them to do their job, which is to keep you alive.
Keep Going and Keep the Quit!