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December 2, 2016 | Pulmonology
Humans can’t live without oxygen, and this makes the lungs an important part of the body. The lungs are in charge of receiving and holding oxygen until blood from the heart pumps down to spread oxygen to the rest of the body. So, any changes in the lungs’ ability to work properly can be a big deal.
The lungs usually become fully grown by the mid-20s for most people. By age 35 or later, though, many people start to see losses in lung function which can lead to breathing and other issues.
The reasons for these issues mostly relate to natural body developments over time, and there isn’t much you can do about them. Luckily, like most conditions that come up over a long period of years, there are things you can do to help slow down or prevent lung issues for as long as possible. In particular, keeping a healthy lung capacity – or simply, the amount of air your lungs are able to hold – is very important. Here are a few basic tips:
Staying active is an easy way to keep up lung capacity, and it has tons of other health benefits. All basic cardio is good – anything from walking to biking or swimming. These kinds of basic exercises keep the lungs active without putting too much pressure on them.
People who are already dealing with lung issues may need to consult with their doctor about certain kinds of exercise to make sure their lungs are healthy enough.
Just like exercise, this one will help in plenty of areas around the body – but the lungs might be the most obvious. Cigarette smoke causes so many issues in the lungs, including cancer, and it also hurts lung capacity. Smoking can lead to swelling and bronchitis, plus it thins out air passages over time, making it harder to breathe. If you’re a smoker who is serious about long term lung health, there’s no choice but to try and quit.
Breathing exercises are some of the most direct ways to maintain lung capacity. They don’t take up much time and aren’t hard at all, but they can go a long way in keeping the lungs as strong as possible as you get older. A couple common exercises:
These are just a couple examples of breathing exercises, and you can tweak them or add your own ideas if you want. Some people count their breaths as a way to measure lung capacity; others use breathing as part of a larger meditation process that helps both the lungs and other areas of the body. If you’re not sure about a particular exercise (especially if you’re already dealing with lung issues), ask your doctor.
The ways you sit and stand play a role in how well your lungs work, and how much air they can hold at a given time. People looking to increase lung capacity can focus on sitting up straight (or even leaning back just a little), rather than slumping their shoulders while sitting or standing. Some doctors recommend reaching above your head while sitting up straight, as a way to help expand the lungs.
The environment around us presents some challenges to overall lung health. Some of these are pollutants like chemicals, smoke and radon, which can be found in some workplaces and homes. Others are bacteria and viruses which can lead to colds, respiratory infections and other conditions that affect the lungs.
Be careful and aware of the environment around you. Keep healthy germ habits, like washing hands or brushing teeth. Stay away from areas you know might be filled with pollutants, and try to stay indoors if air quality is bad. With the right precautions, you can avoid environmental toxins that can damage lung capacity long term.
“Tips to Keep Your Lungs Healthy.” American Lung Association. http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/protecting-your-lungs/
“Breathing Exercises.” American Lung Association. http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/protecting-your-lungs/breathing-exercises.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/
“Keeping Your Lungs Healthy.” Rush University Medical Center. https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/keeping-your-lungs-healthy
“Lung Capacity and Aging.” American Lung Association. http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/how-lungs-work/lung-capacity-and-aging.html
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.