Respiratory problems such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema and bronchitis affect millions of Americans. Poorly functioning lungs decrease oxygen flow to the rest of your body and compromise stamina, as well as increasing the risk of pneumonia and other potentially fatal lung diseases.
The best advice for anyone concerned about having healthy lungs is, of course, not to smoke. Here’s also 10 more tips to help keep your lungs strong and healthy:
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1. Do you snore? If the answer is yes, make an appointment with a sleep specialist and get checked for sleep apnea. The condition, in which you stop breathing dozens or even hundreds of times during the night, can actually damage your lungs nearly as much as smoking. Fortunately, it’s treatable.
2. Take a fish-oil supplement every day. Most airway problems, including asthma, are related to inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are the main ingredient in fish-oil supplements, reduce inflammation.
3. Breathe from your belly for at least five minutes every day. This kind of breathing, called diaphragmatic breathing, involves training and strengthening your diaphragm so it requires less effort to take in each breath. To do it, inhale deeply through your nose, filling your lungs from the bottom up. If you’re doing it right, your stomach will pooch out. Exhale and repeat.
4. Check household cleansers. Some products, like oven cleaner, can be toxic if inhaled. And if the instructions say to open a window or use in a well-ventilated space, follow them.
5. Enforce a no-smoke zone in your house. And avoid smoky bars and smoking areas in restaurants. It doesn’t seem fair, but secondhand smoke you breathe from these sources can damage your lungs just as much as the smoke from your own cigarette.
6. Wear a face mask or even a gas mask when working around toxic dust or fumes.Occupational exposure is a major hazard to lung health. Even simple household tasks like sanding paint could send damaging fragments into your lungs.
7. Work in 10-20 crunches a day. Your abdominal and chest muscles allow you to suck air in and out. Strengthen them, and if you’re also practicing your deep breathing, you’ll have the breath power of a professional opera singer (or at least close).
8. Take your medicine and listen to your doctor if you have asthma. There’s some pretty good evidence that people with asthma eventually develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, a lung disease that strikes people 65 and older. There’s also evidence that keeping your asthma under control with medication and lifestyle changes can prevent the disease from developing.
9. Get at least seven servings of fruits and vegetables a day. A 1998 study found that high amounts of antioxidants found in such foods, including vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and beta-carotene, meant better lung function — even in smokers!
10. Brush your teeth twice a day and floss after every meal. Seems the state of your gums makes a difference when it comes to your lungs. Researchers at the State University of New York in Buffalo found patients with periodontal, or gum, disease were 1 1/2 times more likely to also have COPD. Plus, the worse the gum disease, the worse the lung function, suggesting a direct correlation between the two.