Lungs for life
Take care of your lungs and they will take care of you.
Imagine plump, pink sponges. This is what healthy lungs look like. They are elastic and can expand and contract easily when you breathe.
Your lungs are part of the respiratory system – a group of organs and tissues that work together to help you breathe. Located just below the ribcage and above the diaphragm, these cone-shaped organs are among the hardest-working organs in your body.
How your lungs work
Your lungs make oxygen available to your body and remove waste gases from the body. To get the oxygen your body needs, you inhale air through your mouth and nose. The mucous membranes in your mouth and nose warm and moisten the air, and trap bits of foreign matter like dirt and dust.
The air then travels down the pharynx (back of the throat), passes through your larynx (voice box), and into your trachea (windpipe).
Your trachea is divided into two air passages called bronchial tubes. One bronchial tube leads to the left lung, and the other to the right lung. The bronchial tubes further divide into smaller air passages called bronchi, and then into bronchioles. The bronchioles end in tiny air sacs called alveoli.
When you breathe in, oxygen is moved from the inhaled air into your bloodstream. The blood leaves your lungs and is carried to your heart where it is pumped through your body to provide oxygen to the cells of your tissues and organs.
Every cell in your body needs oxygen to live. When cells use oxygen, it is exchanged for a waste gas called carbon dioxide. Your blood carries the carbon dioxide back to your lungs and it is removed when you breathe out.
Love your lungs
For your lungs to work at the top of their range, the airways need to be open and free of inflammation and abnormal amounts of mucous.
Keep yours in tip-top shape with these tips:
Eat lung-cleansing foods
Munch more antioxidant-rich foods like garlic, onion, cayenne pepper, ginger, and apples to cleanse your lungs of toxins, and boost lung function. Broccoli, cabbage and kale are also high in antioxidants and have been shown to reduce the risk for lung cancer. Protein can also help maintain strong respiratory muscles. Make sure to include good sources of protein like milk, cheese, and chicken in your diet.
Regular exercise can improve lung performance and function, and lower your risk for lung disease. Aerobic exercises like walking or cycling will help to increase your lung capacity. Strengthen the muscles that surround your lungs with cardiovascular and breathing exercises. These exercises can also help clear out toxins in the lungs and clear the airways.
Cigarette smoke contains toxic chemicals that can wreak havoc with your lungs and overall health. These chemicals can affect the way your lungs function, and cause serious lung diseases like COPD and lung cancer. The more you smoke, the greater your risk. Save your lungs and your life by quitting. It’s never too late to reap the benefits of stubbing out that cigarette for good.
There are many pollutants in the air that are harmful to your lungs. Common air pollutants are ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, and lead. Avoid highly polluted and industrialised areas. Minimise outdoor pollution and help create a cleaner environment, like walking or riding your bicycle to work instead of driving.
Improve indoor air
Air pollution isn’t just an outdoor problem. Pollutants like fireplaces, mould, pet dander, candles, and air fresheners can contaminate indoor environments, and cause lung infection. Get rid of these sources of pollution and improve ventilation by opening up a window or two. It may also help to get a houseplant. Indoor plants like ferns and Aloe Vera act as natural air purifiers.