In this article:
The lungs and airways are equipped with a natural defense system that offers protection against environmental toxins, dirt, allergens, and infection-causing germs.
However, there are also things you can do to keep your lungs healthy in general and to aid in the recovery of diseased lungs.
1. Smoking Cessation
Cigarette smoking is by far the most injurious to lung health. The toxins present in cigarette smoke damage the airways, lungs, and even the blood vessels supplying the lungs. Smoking also increases susceptibility to infections such as the common cold, influenza, tuberculosis, and pneumonia.
It is the major cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer, and other types of cancers. (1) Unfortunately, the damage caused by smoking is permanent. However, quitting smoking can abate tissue damage due to smoking.
It can also lead to the restoration of a good degree of lung function and a return to the normal rate of lung function decline. Smoking cessation is the best and easiest way to preserve lung health in smokers.
2. Avoiding Exposure to Indoor and Outdoor Pollutants
Chemicals and dust exposure at home and in the workplace can cause or worsen a lung condition. Likewise, outdoor air pollution has detrimental effects on the lungs. The air quality outside has noteworthy effects on the well-being of lung tissues. (2)
Vacuum carpets and rugs and replace air filters regularly to keep good indoor air quality. Testing your house for molds and installing a working carbon monoxide detector can help control indoor pollution.
A healthy diet is important for your overall health, but it is particularly important for protecting your lungs. The antioxidants present in fruits and vegetables help combat the damaging effects of oxidative stress in the airways, which is a basic characteristic of respiratory diseases. (3)
Oxidative stress is induced by reactive oxygen species or free radicals in the lungs due to various exposures, such as air pollution and airborne irritants, and typical airway inflammatory cell responses. Increased levels of these reactive oxygen species generate further inflammation in the airways.
A diet rich in antioxidants is associated with a slower decline in lung function, especially among ex-smokers.
A healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and a healthy diet is the best prevention and intervention for lung health and lung disease.
Physical activity helps in the better functioning of the lungs. During exercise, two of the important organs of the body come into action: the heart and lungs. Numerous physiological changes occur during exercise that are beneficial for overall health:
- The improved cardiorespiratory functioning improves survival and quality of life in the general and high-risk populations.
- The metabolic response of the body to exercise is increased carbon dioxide production and increased oxygen consumption.
- The ventilation rate increases to meet the oxygen demand of the body.
- Blood flow and ventilation of the lungs increases.
Exercise is helpful in losing weight, and weight loss in obese individuals can help reduce the work of breathing. Overnutrition in respiratory disease is associated with adverse effects due to the detrimental effects induced by the immunometabolism of fat.
In the obese state, dietary intake of lipids leads to increased circulating free fatty acids that activate immune responses and thereby trigger both systemic and airway inflammation. (4) For instance, in asthmatics, increased BMI is associated with frequent exacerbation and poor disease control.
People with lung disease are at risk for obesity due to limitations to physical activity and the adverse effects of oral glucocorticoids, which are often prescribed for controlling flare-ups of respiratory illness. (5)
To conclude, exercise aids weight loss and is indirectly beneficial in the management of various types of lung disease.
ALSO READ: Exercises That Increase Lung Capacity
5. Proper Hydration
Taking in adequate amounts of fluids throughout the day helps the body in numerous ways. As far as the respiratory system is concerned, being hydrated keeps the mucosal linings in the lungs thin. The thinner the lining, the better the lung function.
A thick mucus lining, on the other hand, can cause blockages of the airway and can increase the risk of respiratory infections.
6. Prevent Infection
Simple measures such as frequent handwashing with soap and water go a long way in keeping you safe from various infections. Avoid gatherings during flu season to prevent getting infected yourself or giving others the infection if you have it.
Your oral hygiene also plays a crucial role in your lung health, since the bacteria in your mouth can be swallowed or ingested and end up in your respiratory system, triggering infections. Thus, brush, floss, and rinse regularly to prevent the buildup of plaque and reduce your susceptibility to infections.
Respiratory infections, such as influenza and pneumonia can be easily prevented by getting vaccinated. Repeated respiratory infections can injure the lungs and damage airways.
There are two kinds of pneumonia vaccines: PCV13 and PPSV23. The CDC recommends both vaccines for adults aged 65 and older. (6) A dose of PCV13 is taken first, followed by a dose of PPSV23 a year later.
The vaccine for influenza is taken annually. (7) Seasonal influenza vaccination and pneumococcal vaccination in adults are easy prevention measures of these illnesses and their complications.
8. Proper Use of Medications
Pharmacological intervention is the mainstay of managing chronic respiratory diseases. It is helpful to review how the various medications work and the correct techniques for using inhalers and nebulizers for the effective maintenance of disease, prevention of exacerbation, and slowing or halting disease progression.
9. Health Preservation
People with lung diseases such as asthma, interstitial lung disease, COPD, and lung cancer should educate themselves about their disease and schedule regular checkups with their health care provider for disease management and strategies for symptom control.
This is extremely beneficial in preserving lung health, especially in people with lung diseases, as proper maintenance of the disease can prevent further damage and improve the morbidity associated with the disease.
10. Pulmonary Rehabilitation
Pulmonary rehabilitation is the most effective intervention in improving the quality of life of people with advanced chronic respiratory disease with significant morbidity.
For instance, people with COPD often decrease their physical activity because exercise can induce or worsen shortness of breath. The progressive deconditioning associated with inactivity initiates a vicious cycle, with breathlessness becoming problematic at even lower physical activity.
Pulmonary rehabilitation helps to break the cycle and consequently improve outcomes and decrease the morbidity by improving quality of life. Apart from the exercises offered during rehabilitation, the education and psychological support provided are helpful in the management of the disease state.
Due to the steady rise in environmental pollution, your lungs have to work extra hard to purify the air you breathe in. The increased toxic load can sometimes overwhelm your lungs and reduce the oxygen supply within your body, thereby inviting a whole range of health problems. The airborne pollutants, dust, and other toxins settle inside the lungs in the form of tar, which can prove extremely dangerous if not treated timely.
When your lungs are failing to operate at their full strength and unable to cleanse themselves, it is important that you do all you can to ease their burden. While there is only so much you can do to escape air pollution, the above-listed tips and interventions can help your lungs function better.
Lung disease can take a life-threatening turn as it affects the most essential function of breathing. Thus, it is usually beyond the purview of self-treatment. While these tips may come in handy, they cannot be the be-all and end-all of your treatment.
You must consult a doctor as soon as you notice any sustained breathing problems or respiratory symptoms for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Moreover, you should get frequent checkups to see how well your lungs are responding to the treatment.