Updated: Oct 14, 2021
Most of us breathe without giving it much thought. But what if one day, breathing didn’t happen so easily for you, and this vital function became a daily struggle…
This is why it’s so important to look after your lung health, and minimise your risk of complications.
What do your lungs do?
Your lungs play a key part in keeping you alive. When you breathe in, air travels into your lungs, which absorb the oxygen. Your body uses this to do all sorts of things including thinking, moving, and digesting food. These processes produce carbon dioxide which is not used in the body, so the lungs remove this via the air we breathe out. Your lungs also help protect you from air-bourne pollutants by catching unwanted particles in mucus produced in your airways. The average adult breathes around 12-20 times a minute when resting, and this can reach up to 60 times a minute during vigorous exercise.
Keeping your lungs healthy
There are some key things you can do to maintain healthy lungs:
Quit smoking - Smoking accounts for around 84% of deaths from lung cancer, and is the leading avoidable cause of death. E-cigarettes are less harmful, although studies are still ongoing about the long term effects on lung health.
Protect your lungs from pollutants - Avoid air pollution hotspots where possible including busy roads, particularly at peak times and on high pollution days (check air pollution levels at UK Air). If your work involves significant or hazardous dust or fumes, make sure you wear your PPE.
Avoid respiratory illnesses - Hand hygiene is particularly important in protecting yourself from illnesses such as colds and flu which affect your lungs. Flu jabs are also available seasonally to protect you from common strains of flu. If you do get ill, avoid passing it on to others by using a tissue, and washing your hands regularly.
Exercise regularly - Exercise helps to improve your lung capacity and make them more efficient.
Practice deep breathing - Typically, regular breathing only uses around 50% of your lung capacity. Deep breathing helps to fill your lungs and exercise your breathing muscles. It can al so help you feel calmer and improve your overall wellbeing.
Symptoms of lung conditions
Being aware of the symptoms helps you know when to seek further advice:
Shortness of breath
Coughing up blood
Chest pain or tightness
If you’re worried about any of these symptoms, see your GP.
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