Tips for Supporting Healthy Lungs

Tips for Supporting Healthy Lungs

October is National Healthy Lung Month, and at Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine, we’re joining the American Lung Association in spreading the word about how to support lung health by offering our top tips for keeping lung disease at bay. 

Dennis Kellar, MD, and Madhu Gundavaram, MD, specialize in diagnosing and treating patients struggling with different lung and breathing disorders at our practice in Algonquin, Illinois. But prevention is often the best medicine, so keep reading to learn what you can do to keep your lungs healthy.   

1. Don’t use tobacco

It’s no secret that cigarette smoke is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer and other lung diseases. If you smoke, talk to your provider at Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine for help quitting. 

Vaping and other tobacco products can also damage your lungs and increase your risk of developing lung diseases, including cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cautions that there’s no safe way to use tobacco.  

2. Check your environment

The air you breathe can contain particles and pollutants that damage your lungs. Keep your lungs healthy by keeping your home as lung friendly as possible. Radon, dust and pet dander, chemicals, and secondhand smoke can all contribute to lung disease.

It’s also important to consider the air you breathe outside. Outdoor air pollution affects the health of your lungs. The air quality index (AQI) rates air pollution on a scale from 0 to 500. Check the levels in your area, and on days when the air is unhealthy to breathe, avoid exercising or spending long periods outside.   

3. Get vaccinated against infection

Any time you get a lung infection, your health is at risk. The good news is that many infectious respiratory diseases can be prevented or minimized with a simple vaccine. 

In addition to taking disease-preventing precautions, such as hand washing and limiting your exposure to sick people, keep your lungs healthy by getting vaccinated. 

Here’s a look at some of the available vaccines for respiratory diseases that spread from person to person:

Not all respiratory infections have a vaccine, including the common cold. Even if you’re vaccinated, it’s important to follow public health guidelines to keep yourself and everyone in the community safe. 

4. Exercise regularly

Regular aerobic exercise can strengthen your lungs and help them stay healthy. Exerting yourself through physical exercise can increase your heart rate and make you take deeper breaths. 

As you continue to exercise and strengthen your lungs and heart, your body can more efficiently transport oxygen around your body, preventing you from getting out of breath during your regular activity.  

If you already have lung disease, it’s more important than ever to get and stay active, but be sure to work with your provider at Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine to ensure your exercise plan works for your specific needs. 

5. Do breathing exercises

Your lungs fill with oxygen and other gases found in the air every time you take a breath. When you breathe out, your lungs send out any gas that isn’t oxygen. 

Over time, your lungs can lose their ability to return to their full capacity. As a result, your lungs may hold onto more stale air and not take in as much fresh oxygen, which would be bad for your lungs and overall health.

One way to strengthen your lungs and diaphragm — which is the muscle that helps you breathe — is with breathing exercises. Your provider at Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine can provide customized recommendations, but here are two simple exercises you can start today:

Pursed lip breathing

Breathe in through your nose, and then breathe out with your lips pursed for twice as long as the inhale. Repeat 2-10 times or for up to 10 minutes

Diaphragmatic breathing

Place your hand on your belly, then breathe in through your nose and notice how your belly fills with air. Then breathe out through your mouth with your lips pursed for twice as long as the inhale. Repeat 2-10 times or for up to 10 minutes.

These exercises may seem simple, but many people struggle with them at first. Start slow and gradually build the number of breaths or duration. 

6. Talk to your doctor about healthy lungs

One of the most important steps you can take to support your lungs is to make appointments with your primary care physician, who screens your lungs at your regular checkup. 

If your provider has concerns about your lung health, follow up with a specialist. At Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine, our team specializes in diagnosing and treating many types of lung diseases. 

To learn more about supporting your lung health, book an appointment online or over the phone with Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine today.

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