Lungs play an important role in our body hence it is necessary to prioritize lung health. Very often we tend to take them for granted; however, like other parts of the body, they age with time. They lose their strength and become less flexible which results in breathing difficulty.
While our body does protect the lungs by keeping dirt and germs at bay, we can maintain the health of our lungs and reduce the risk of lung disease by adopting certain healthy habits.
Stay away from smoking
Never smoke and stay away from secondhand smoke as well. Smoking is known to be a leading cause of lung cancer and lung diseases like COPD. Furthermore, it is never too late to quit smoking as lungs begin to heal almost immediately once a person quits the butt. The risk of acquiring lung cancer reduces to almost half to that of a current smoker, ten years after quitting smoking.
Control your exposure to pollutants
Avoid exposure to indoor and outdoor pollutants as it can damage your lungs and accelerate aging. Lungs can easily stay strong against toxins when they are young and strong, however, with age, they are more susceptible for the damage and become more vulnerable to the disease.Its best to reduce exposure to outdoor pollutants as much as possible including:
- Avoid being out of home during peak air pollution times.
- Avoid exercising near heavy traffic.
- Take possible safety precautions when exposed to pollutants at work.
- Wear a mask whenever and wherever possible to filter out toxic particles.
Indoor air pollution is reported to be worse than outdoor, take adequate steps to reduce indoor air pollution such as:
- Keep your homes as clean as possible to keep dust, mold and other pollutants away.
- Make use of natural products to clean the house. Keeping your home smoke-free is equally important to avoid secondhand smoke exposure.
- Avoid exposure to biomass which is commonly seen in rural areas. Use LPG or natural gas instead. Use masks wherever exposure is unavoidable.
- Ensure appropriate ventilation inside homes.
- Avoid exposure to chemicals like benzene and formaldehyde found in synthetic air fresheners, perfumes and joss sticks (agarbatti).
Exercise plays an important role. Staying active keeps your lungs healthy and even improves the symptoms of some long-term lung conditions.
Do any form of exercise like walking, jogging or hitting the gym for a minimum of 30 minutes, five days a week to create strong, healthy lungs. However, if you have pre-existing breathing problems, make sure to talk to your concerned healthcare professional. In these cases specific exercises are required to relieve breathlessness.
As we age, any lung infection can be dangerous. It is a common cause of death in elderly. There are certain steps which can be taken to avoid serious lung infection. Keep your hands clean by washing them regularly with soap and avoid touching your face. Avoid crowded places, take appropriate precautions in social gatherings and stay away from sick people. Staying hydrated when sick helps your lungs to work better. It is important to visit a healthcare professional as soon as possible, in case one has fever, Chest pain and phlegm.
All individuals with age more than 65 years should receive a pneumococcal vaccine, people who have other comorbidities can take it earlier. Everyone with a pre-existing lung condition or has a high risk of developing complicated flu should receive flu shot every year.
The Writer is Dr Sushrut Ganpule, Consultant — Pulmonogist at Jupiter Hospital, Pune