2020 was a difficult year for nearly everyone because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There were health and financial repercussions, and we’re still struggling with the fallout, even with the introduction of viable vaccines.
One thing that COVID-19 did do is help people learn to be more cognizant of physical health and wellness.
Many of the underlying conditions that are linked to more severe cases of COVID-19 are lifestyle-related.
From nicotine use in cigarettes and vaping devices to being more aware of how much physical activity we’re regularly getting, there are ways that we can strengthen our bodies to prepare us for certain illnesses.
Since respiratory diseases affect the lungs, it’s worthwhile to look at specific things we can do to have healthier lungs. Again, many of the things that will promote strong and healthy lungs are linked to your lifestyle. Your lungs play an integral role in your health as they keep fresh oxygen flowing through your body at the proper levels.
While you can’t prevent many illnesses, you can be better prepared to fight some of them.
This was briefly touched on, but smoking and even vaping are among the worst things you can do in terms of your lung health. Smoking is a primary risk factor for lung cancer as well as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD.
COPD includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
When you smoke, it narrows your air passages, ultimately making it hard to breathe.
Smoking also leads to swelling in your lungs, known as chronic inflammation.
Over time, smoking and nicotine exposure can damage your lung tissue and lead to changes in that tissue that become cancer.
When you’re moving your body, it’s making your lungs and heart work harder, which is a good thing. They’re supplying more oxygen to meet the demands of your muscles. While your muscles get stronger in the process of working out, so do your heart and lungs.
The more fit you are, the more efficiently your body can get oxygen into your bloodstream.
Along with helping your lungs be strong and healthy, exercise reduces your risk of most chronic and serious illnesses including different types of cancer, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.
Aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week. Aerobic activity and strength training can both be good for your lungs.
Don’t exercise outdoors when the air quality is bad, however. If there’s a high level of pollution, try to exercise indoors.
If you have an existing lung disease, you might have to modify your exercise, but it’s still something you should incorporate into your routine unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
You can ask your health care provider about their recommendations for a fitness routine that will work well for your needs.
Do Breathing Exercises
Along with working out, breathing exercises can strengthen your lungs too.
There’s something called diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing, which engages your diaphragm. Your diaphragm does much of the work when you’re breathing.
To practice this type of breathing, sit or lie down with relaxed shoulders. Put one hand on your chest and one on your belly.
Inhale through your nose for two seconds. Feel the air go into your stomach, and feel your stomach push outward. Your stomach should be moving more than your chest.
Purse your lips and breathe out for two seconds while you press your stomach and repeat.
Even just simple deep breathing is good for your lungs. You should inhale slowly and stay mindful while doing so. Expand your belly and think about lowering your diaphragm. Then, expand your ribs, so they feel like they’re opening like wings. Then, let your upper chest expand and lift.
Once you do this, exhale as much as you can, letting your chest fall and your ribs contract.
Be Aware of Your Posture
Your lungs are soft structures. What this means is that the space available to them is what you make available.
Remember good posture as much as possible, and when you’re sitting at your desk working or watch TV, take regular breaks to sit up tall and reach overhead. This gives your lungs the space to expand.
Talk to Your Doctor About Supplements
Certain vitamins and supplements may be helpful for lung health but talk to your doctor before taking anything. Vitamins and supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, so ask your doctor if it’s okay to them based on your health and any possible interactions with other medicines you take.
Vitamin D is one option. Often people with lung conditions and more severe cases are deficient in Vitamin D. Vitamin D levels decline as you age, and it’s difficult to get enough during the winter since much of our vitamin D intake comes from the sun.
Vitamin C has also been shown to help with certain lung-related symptoms like mucus, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
Omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce inflammation, which can help your lungs, and some teas such as green tea and chamomile may be beneficial for the lungs.
Consider an Air Purifier
Finally, you might want an air purifier at home and even in your office. Air purifiers can clean out small particles such as pollen, mold, and dust. Polluted air can harm your lungs and make existing lung conditions worse.
Particles and contaminants in the air can cause swelling in your lungs, coughing, and breathing problems.
There are some evidence air purifiers may help not just your lungs function better, but they may help your heart and blood pressure too.
Along with an air purifier, there are other steps you can take to keep your air clean. Frequently dust and vacuum, and change the filter on your air conditioner at least every three months. Use exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathroom, and if there’s a high pollen count outside, keep your windows and doors closed.
What you might not realize is that the healthier your lungs are, the better you’re going to feel overall.