October is a lung-friendly time. It’s National Healthy Lung Month, encouraging us to pay attention to our lungs and to increase awareness of things in our environment that might harm our lungs. October 28th is Lung Health Day, and the week of October 25-30 is set aside as National Respiratory Care Week. So, why all the focus on lungs and lung health?
Lung Disease Is Staggering
From the time we draw our first breath, we breathe about 25,000 times every day. Our lungs work automatically, bringing our cells the oxygen they need to thrive and removing carbon dioxide, a waste product of cell metabolism. Most of us don’t think about our lungs until we have issues breathing—then our lungs have our full and undivided attention. The air we breathe contains pollution and irritants that can lead to diseases and lung function impairment. In the U.S., about 25 million people have asthma, and nearly 10 million fall ill with chronic bronchitis each year. The leading cause of lung disease in the U.S. is smoking, which damages the airway tissues and the lungs’ alveoli (the tiny air sacs that pump oxygen throughout your lungs). Most lung cancer and lung health damage have cigarette smoking as a causative factor.
Tips to Avoid Damage to Your Lungs
There are many changes people can make in their immediate environment to lessen their exposure to agents that may damage their lungs. Here are a few simple examples:
- Clean your air. Ensure your vacuum includes a HEPA filter to reduce chemical build-up, lead exposure, and allergens like pet dander.
- Green your space. Plants, plants, and more plants! Indoor plants help purify the air by removing toxins.
- Go natural. Select fragrance-free cleaning products, laundry detergents, and air fresheners to reduce potential lung irritation.
- Test for radon. Install a radon detector in your home. Radon, a colorless, odorless gas, is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S.
Prevention can be your first line of defense against potential ailments.
Tips to Improve Your Lung Health
Our lungs have a natural defense system that works to protect them from germs, irritants, and pollutants. You can also decrease your chances of developing breathing difficulties or improve your lung health should you develop problems. Here are a few ways to improve your lung health:
- Don’t smoke, or if you smoke, quit. The primary cause of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is cigarette smoke. It narrows the air passages and makes breathing difficult.
- Avoid indoor pollutants. Pollutants and irritants in the home can damage your lungs. Avoid secondhand smoke and chemicals in your home and workplace, and avoid exercising outside on bad air quality days.
- Minimize exposure to outdoor pollution. Monitor local air quality levels daily and avoid prolonged exposure when outdoor pollution increases.
- Prevent infection. Avoid crowds during cold and flu season. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer, practice good oral hygiene to limit exposure to germs, and get flu and pneumonia vaccines.