Did you know that if you live to be 80 years old, you will breath as many as 672 million times? This only includes breaths at rest – if you avidly exercise, you breathe even more than that. Never take your lung health for granted! Your precious lungs keep you alive and well, but only if they’re healthy. That’s why it’s important to keep your lungs in tip top shape.
Since you are continually breathing, you may not be aware of your breath cycles. That’s why it is difficult to notice a gradual decline of lung function. In fact, you may not notice a problem with your lungs until it becomes fairly pronounced. That’s why now is the time to be sure to take care of your valuable lung health.
One of the most effective things you can do to ensure good lung health is to avoid smoking. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). That’s because exposure to cigarette smoke can slowly narrow your air passages and gradually make breathing more difficult, in addition to causing chronic inflammation and lung swelling. Cigarette smoke can also end up destroying lung tissue. Never fear – it's never too late to benefit from quitting or avoiding second-hand smoke!
Often, after you quit, your lungs may be able to gradually recover from smoking, especially with a good detox program. Key benefits, such as heart rate, blood pressure, and carbon monoxide levels returning to normal levels, can occur in less than 12 hours. Within 2 – 3 weeks, your circulation can start to improve, and your lung function can gain greater strength. After roughly one year of being free of cigarettes, coughing and shortness of breath may decrease and the risk of coronary heart disease can be cut in half compared to someone who still smokes. You will also be less likely to suffer from a heart attack. The longer you steer clear of smoking, the more benefits you may experience. After 15 smoke-free years, your risk of coronary heart disease equates to that of a non-smoker, and your risk of lung cancer can drop to half that of a person who is still smoking.
In addition to avoiding cigarette smoke, endeavor to steer clear of airborne pollutants such as household chemicals. When you clean your home, be sure you have proper ventilation or wear a face covering to prevent inhalation of chemical fumes. Better yet, invest in nontoxic household cleaners. Avoid exercising outdoors on days with poor air quality and minimize exposure to indoor and outdoor pollutants whenever possible.
Indoor air pollutants are everywhere! Try to avoid of breathing synthetically scented products that can increase your risk of cancer, asthma, and kidney damage. In fact, about 95% of chemicals in synthetic fragrances are derived from crude oil and petroleum, including benzene derivatives, which are known carcinogenic chemicals.
Support your lungs and your whole body from the inside-out by eating a whole-foods, predominantly plant-based diet, with wild-caught fish once or twice a week. Fatty, wild-caught fish contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids that can strongly support lung function. Fruits such as apples and apricots provide valuable vitamin C, a natural lung protectant. Broccoli and beans provide vitamins and nutrients that help your lungs function beautifully. Berries are rich in antioxidants that can help protect lung health. Fill your daily diet with fresh, organic fruits and vegetables so that your lungs have a smorgasbord of natural vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to help you can breathe easy.
In addition to avoiding smoking and maintaining a healthy diet, exercise can help support lung health by working the muscles that you use to breathe. Your chest, neck, and diaphragm muscles can all become stronger with consistent exercise. You can also help prevent infections by washing your hands frequently (and for at least 20 seconds), avoiding crowds during cold and flu season, and keeping your distance from people who are known to be sick.
Take care of your lungs, and they’ll take care of you!