Take a deep breath. This simple act just started the journey of carrying vital oxygen to every cell in your body. Without enough oxygen, our bodies are at risk for a variety of respiratory problems like heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is why lung health is so important.
Like most other body parts, our lungs 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. Here are three tips for healthy lungs.
Want to prevent lung cancer and COPD? Cigarette smoking is a major cause of the two conditions, so if you smoke, stop. Not only does smoking cause diseases, it narrows your air passages, which can make breathing more difficult. It also causes chronic inflammation in your lungs. This can lead to chronic bronchitis.
Exposure to secondhand smoke, air pollution or chemicals like radon can cause or worsen lung disease, according to the American Lung Association. Keep your lungs healthy by making your car and home smoke-free, testing your home for radon and avoid outdoor activities when the air quality is poor. You can check the daily air quality in your area by visiting AirNow.gov.
Just like aerobic exercises can help strengthen and protect your heart, breathing exercises can do the same for your lungs. If you're unable to breathe efficiently, stale air can build up in your lungs, making it more difficult to breathe in fresh oxygen. The build up of stale air can make your diaphragm less efficient, which means that overtime, your body could have lower oxygen levels and less reserves for exercise and other activities.
Belly breathing and pursed lip breathing are two ways you can strengthen your lungs and help your diaphragm work at its full capacity.
To do belly breathing, simply breathe in through your nose and focus on filling your belly with air. If you’re having trouble filling your belly, try placing your hands or something light — like a box of tissues — on your belly while lying down. When you breath into your belly, focus on the movement of your hands or whatever you’ve placed on your belly. Make sure you exhale at least two to three times longer than when you inhale.
Pursed lip breathing can be done by simply breathing in through your nose and breathing out through pursed lips for at least twice as long as you inhaled.
Proper breathing as well as not smoking and avoiding airway irritants can help keep your lungs healthy and happy. If you have concerns about the health of your lungs or breathing difficulties, talk to your doctor.