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October is Healthy Lung Month

We rarely think about breathing except when it’s hard to do. That’s why every October, many organizations join forces to educate the public about the importance of protecting our lungs against general neglect, disease, mold, air pollution, and smoking. Bottom line: If we take care of our lungs, our lungs will take care of us.

During a normal day, we breathe nearly 25,000 times. The air we inhale is mostly oxygen and nitrogen, but small amounts of other gases, floating bacteria, and viruses are mixed in. It also contains varying amounts of pollutants from the atmosphere – tobacco smoke, automobile exhaust, industrial bi-products, cleaning products, and more.

Your entire body depends on your lungs to keep breathing and distributing oxygen-rich blood throughout your body and to get rid of the body’s gaseous waste, carbon dioxide. Our bodies do have a natural defense system designed to protect the lungs, keeping dirt, germs and other irritants at bay. But there are some important things you can do on a regular basis to keep your lungs healthy and reduce the risk of disease:

Don’t Smoke or Vape

This one speaks for itself.  It is well documented that cigarette smoking is the major cause of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Cigarette smoke can narrow the air passages and make breathing more difficult. It causes chronic inflammation, or swelling in the lung, which can lead to chronic bronchitis. Over time cigarette smoke destroys lung tissue and can trigger changes that grow into cancer. If you smoke, it’s never too late to benefit from quitting. 

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), sometimes called JUULs, “vapes” or “vape pens,” have been available in the United States for about 10 years.  As the most commonly used tobacco product among kids, their use has reached epidemic levels, which is disturbing because the mid-to-long-term consequences of e-cigarette have not been thoroughly studied.  Although much remains to be determined about the lasting health consequences of these products, healthcare professionals are troubled by mounting evidence about the negative health risks of e-cigarettes on the lungs. It is becoming clear that the inhalation of harmful chemicals included in e-cigarettes can cause irreversible lung damage and lung diseases.

Avoid Exposure to Indoor Pollutants That Can Damage Your Lungs

Secondhand smoke, chemicals in the home and workplace, and radon all can cause or worsen lung disease. Make your home, office and car smoke free. Test your home for radon. Avoid exercising outdoors when air quality is low. And talk to your healthcare provider if you are worried that something in your home, school or work may be making you sick.

Minimize Exposure to Outdoor Air Pollution

The air quality outside can vary from day to day and sometimes is unhealthy to breathe. Knowing how outdoor air pollution affects your health and useful strategies to minimize prolonged exposure can help keep you and your family well. 

One good rule of thumb is to avoid walking or exercising along streets with heavy traffic in order to avoid inhaling automobile exhaust. Many experts agree that walking even just one block away from a busy street can help minimize your exposure to harmful pollutants.

Prevent Infection

A seemingly simple cold or other respiratory infection can possibly turn into something more serious if you don’t do several things to help protect yourself:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. Alcohol-based cleaners are a good substitute if you cannot wash.
  • Avoids crowds during the cold and flu season.
  • Practice good oral hygiene to protect you from the germs in your mouth leading to infections. Be sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day and visit your dentist at least every six months.
  • Get your annual influenza vaccine. In addition, you should talk to your healthcare provider to find out if the pneumonia vaccine is right for you.
  • If you do get sick, keep it to yourself! Rest at home until you are feeling better so that you can help keep friends, family, co-workers and others from contracting your illness.

Get Regular Healthcare

Regular check-ups help prevent diseases, even when you are feeling well. This is especially true for lung disease, which sometimes goes undetected until it is has progressed and become serious. During a check-up, your healthcare provider will listen to your breathing and listen to your concerns. Be sure to schedule an annual physical with your doctor, whether you are experiencing any symptoms or not.

Exercise

Regardless of your age, body size, or overall physical condition, regular exercise can help keep your lungs healthy. Any type of physical activity counts as exercise. It could be a planned sport such as running, swimming, cycling or walking. It could also include physical activities which are part of your daily life, such as gardening, cleaning the house or walking in the mall.

In order to stay healthy, you should do 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days per week.  If you have a chronic lung condition or any health concerns, it is important that you consult your healthcare provider before beginning an exercise program.

Sometimes we take our lungs for granted. They keep us alive and well and for the most part, we don’t need to think about them. That’s why it is important to prioritize your lung health.  Love your lungs this October and work to make any necessary changes to keep them healthy! Contact your CCHC provider at 252.514.4111 today to determine the next steps to insuring your lung health.  

(Sources: American Lung Association, mecknc.gov, healthstatus.com)