If you’re going to make a list of organs you want to keep healthy, your heart would probably top it. But it’s important to understand that your organs work together, and a set of healthy lungs is vital to heart health.
Your lungs, just like your heart, need regular exercise and proper nutrition to perform at their best. But because most of us don’t usually focus on our breathing, it can be difficult to notice when our lungs might need a little extra attention.
So, let’s look at what your lungs do for you and how healthy lungs help your heart.
Healthy Lungs Are Important
Healthy lungs are very important because there’s a lot going on with every breath you take. Each time you breathe you:
- Provide cells the oxygen they need to release energy
- Provide oxygen for cells to carry out cellular respiration
- Release carbon dioxide
The process of taking in oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide is called gas exchange. Gas exchange occurs in your lungs. Here’s how it works:
- Oxygen enters your lungs and is absorbed into your bloodstream.
- Your heart pumps this oxygenated blood to your working muscles so your muscles can move.
- As your muscles use the oxygen, they produce carbon dioxide, which is absorbed into your blood.
- After being absorbed it’s pumped back to your heart and on to your lungs.
- Your lungs get rid of this carbon dioxide, and breathe in more oxygen.
See, there’s a lot going on. The oxygen you breathe ends up in your bloodstream and then in your heart. That’s why lung health is tied to heart health in so many ways.
How to Maintain Healthy Lungs
The American Lung Association recommends doing (or not doing) these things to maintain your healthy lungs, including:
- Exercise— Aerobic exercise helps improve your lung capacity.
- Stop Smoking— Cigarette smoking is a major cause of lung cancer and diseases like COPD.
- Avoid Pollutants— Secondhand smoke, air pollution and chemicals like radon.
- Do Breathing Exercises— Breathing exercises can help improve lung function.
Try doing some deep breathing to exercise your lungs. They only take a few minutes and you can even do them at work.
If you’re thinking about adding aerobic exercise to your routine, walking is a good place to start. If you are having breathing problems, be sure to talk to your doctor first before starting an aerobic exercise program. For additional tips, try downloading our “Guide to Getting Fit and Active”. We’ll show you how to do it in just six easy steps.