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5 Ways to Improve Your Lung Health

Written By: Kent Hospital Staff on June 25, 2024

Lungs do much more than help us breathe; they are a crucial component of our overall well-being. Lungs play a pivotal role in maintaining our energy levels, immune function, and even mental clarity. Yet, many of us take lung health for granted until issues arise. 

Whether you're a fitness enthusiast, a busy professional, or someone managing a chronic condition, understanding the importance of lung health and regular screenings can significantly enhance your quality of life. 

What Do Our Lungs Do?

To underscore the importance of lung health, let’s discuss what our lungs do.  While the main function of our lungs is to help us breathe, lungs play several other vital roles in maintaining our overall health and facilitating essential bodily functions, including:

  • Gas Exchange – Lungs facilitate the intake of oxygen and the expulsion of carbon dioxide.
  • Pathogens Protection - The respiratory system, including the lungs, acts as a first line of defense against airborne pathogens and irritants.
  • Voice Production (Phonation) - The lungs provide the airflow and pressure through the vocal cords to enable speech, singing, and other vocalizations.
  • Filtering Small Blood Clots - The lungs filter small clots and other particles that enter the bloodstream, preventing them from causing blockages.
  • Blood Storage - The lungs can act as a reservoir for blood – helping to maintain stable blood pressure and volume.

Understanding these functions shows the importance of lung health and the need to protect and support respiratory function through healthy lifestyle choices.

5 Ways to Improve Lung Health

Given all they do for us, it’s important to maintain and improve your lung health. Here are five ways to do just that:

  1. Quit Smoking and Avoid Secondhand Smoke
    Smoking is the leading cause of lung diseases, including lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).  The good news is quitting can significantly improve lung function and reduce the risk of lung-related illnesses. 

    Additionally, avoiding secondhand smoke is crucial because it can also cause similar harmful effects.
  2. Exercise Regularly
    Regular physical activity helps improve lung capacity and efficiency. Aerobic exercises, such as walking, running, cycling, and swimming, increase your breathing rate, allowing your lungs to work harder and improve their capacity. 

    Even activities like yoga and tai chi can enhance lung function through focused breathing techniques.
  3. Maintain a Healthy Diet 
    A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins supports overall health, including lung function. Foods high in antioxidants such as berries, citrus fruits, and leafy greens can help protect lung tissue from damage. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts can also reduce inflammation in the lungs.
  4. Practice Breathing Exercises
    Breathing exercises can strengthen the lungs and improve their efficiency. Techniques like diaphragmatic breathing (deep belly breathing) and pursed-lip breathing can help increase lung capacity and make breathing easier. 

    Regular practice of these exercises can be particularly beneficial for those with respiratory conditions like asthma or COPD.
  5. Avoid Pollutants and Allergens
    Minimizing exposure to indoor and outdoor pollutants can significantly benefit lung health. Use air purifiers to reduce indoor pollutants, avoid using harsh chemical cleaners, and ensure good ventilation in your home. 

    When outdoor air quality is poor, stay inside and use masks if necessary. Additionally, managing allergies by avoiding known triggers can prevent inflammation and respiratory issues.

The Importance of Lung Screenings

Along with improving your lung health, regular lung screenings can prevent serious health issues in the future, such as cancer. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, and early-stage lung cancer often has no symptoms. If you are in a screening program and get lung cancer, it will likely be found at an early stage when it is easiest to treat.

However, screenings can detect a variety of lung-related issues beyond lung cancer, including:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Interstitial lung disease (IDL)
  • Infections (pneumonia, Tuberculosis, fungal)
  • Pulmonary nodules
  • Vascular conditions
  • Congenial/occupational lung diseases

Screenings are also quick and easy. It’s a CT scan using low-dose radiation and takes about five minutes. 

Who Qualifies for Lung Screenings?

It’s important to note that not everyone qualifies for regular lung screenings.  Kent Hospital follows current United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) guidelines for lung cancer screenings.

You qualify for a screening if you:

  • Are 50-80 years old (50-77 with Medicare)
  • Have a history of heavy smoking 
  • Are currently smoking or stopped within the past 15 years

It is recommended that qualifying patients be screened once a year. 

Seeking Help

To learn more about lung health and screenings, visit https://www.kentri.org/lungscreening

or call (401) 355-8635.

NOTE: Medicare and many insurers cover screening costs—check with yours for details.

If you need help quitting smoking, call: 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669).

Disclaimer: The content in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only and should not serve as medical advice, consultation, or diagnosis. If you have a medical concern, please consult your healthcare provider, or seek immediate medical treatment.