Our lungs are constantly exposed to danger from the air we breathe, but healthy lungs have several layers of defences – and the ability to clean themselves. However, no defence is perfect, and we still need to protect our lungs so that they can protect us. Here are some ways that we can ensure that our lungs are functioning at their best.
The most important things that we can do to keep our lungs strong and healthy are also the things that improve our general physical and mental health: exercise and good habits. Your muscles need oxygen to function, and the lungs and heart are responsible for providing it.
During exercise, your lungs also get a workout because of your heavy breathing, and your circulatory system becomes more efficient at removing excess carbon dioxide. With regular training, healthy lungs will increase in capacity, and your breathing will become more efficient.
The other fundamental way that you can support your lungs is with a healthy, varied diet. Your body needs a variety of nutrients and minerals to function and repair itself, and a diet of fruits, vegetables, oily fish, eggs, nuts, beans, and other food products can provide them. Keeping your natural defences strong can protect you from a range of air pollution effects.
While we haven’t found a food that specifically supports the lungs, one recent study from Korea found that green tea may be associated with improved lung health due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Inflammation of the airways is a common symptom of people with lung health issues, and it can cause a heavy feeling in the chest and difficulty breathing. In addition to green tea, several other foods – such as blueberries, leafy greens, olives, walnuts, and turmeric – have demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties, which may play a role in maintaining healthy lungs.
There are positive choices you can take to protect your lungs. For instance, avoiding infection by ensuring you have the appropriate vaccinations against the flu and pneumonia, regularly washing your hands, and avoiding contact with anybody displaying symptoms.
Everybody knows that smoking is bad for lung health, as it hurts their capacity to provide oxygen and leads to mucous build-up – not to mention causing cancer. The evidence on vaping is less clear.
In addition to protecting your body from the inside, it’s also important to prevent harmful air pollution effects by avoiding environments with heavy air pollution, such as areas near dense traffic, particularly when exercising. Similarly, working in highly polluted workspaces can also be an impediment to healthy lungs, and there are many pollutants beside carbon dioxide to be aware of. Silica dust, cardboard dust and metal dust are all common in many types of workplace, and employees may be inhaling them without even realizing.