The lungs play a vital role in our survival. Without it, how could we possibly breathe? Therefore, we must take care of his health as well as possible.
According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO) for 2017, tuberculosis or TB in Indonesia is the third highest in the world. Meanwhile, according to data from Globocan in 2018, the number of lung cancer patients in Indonesia is the highest in Southeast Asia.
Currently, the world is facing the COVID-19 pandemic. We are required to implement health protocols and maintain the immune system as optimally as possible to prevent transmission and severe infections. Well, lung health is one that should be a concern.
Starting from your daily lifestyle, here are some ways to maintain lung health.
Nothing good comes from smoking. Smoking is definitely harmful to the lungs. Not only tuberculosis or lung cancer, smoking can cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to asthma. For those who already have the disease, smoking can worsen the condition.
When smoking a cigarette, thousands of chemicals enter the lungs, such as nicotine, carbon monoxide, and tar. The effect is destructive! The lungs become mucous, making it hard to clean themselves, irritated, and inflamed. Gradually, the respiratory tract becomes narrow, making it difficult to breathe.
The chemicals in cigarettes are also carcinogenic, so they make the lungs age faster and turn normal lung cells into cancer! In fact, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say, 90 percent of deaths from lung cancer are caused by smoking.
The dangers of smoking are not only felt by active smokers, but non-smokers who inhale the smoke, aka passive smokers.
Cigarette smoke contains more harmful substances. Because the chemical concentrations of cigarette smoke drop drastically in the outdoor air, passive smokers accidentally inhale dangerous amounts of these chemicals.
So, try to quit smoking, and if you can avoid smoking areas so you don’t have to inhale the smoke. Indeed, it is not easy to quit smoking. However, with determination, the help of drugs, and therapy, breaking free from smoking addiction is not impossible.
Exercise Regularly to Breathe Smoothly
Exercise is very important for maintaining healthy lungs. In fact, those with lung problems are also advised to exercise regularly so that their quality of life is more optimal. According to the CDC, the recommended exercise is:
Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as walking, for at least 150 minutes per week. If you engage in intense aerobic exercise, such as running, simply aim for 75 minutes per week.
Participate in activities that require muscle, such as body weight training and lifting weights, at least 2 days a week.
Simple breathing exercises can also strengthen the lungs. Try following these breathing exercise tips:
Inhale through your nose. Then, exhale through pursed lips. Try exhaling twice as long as inhaling.
Practice belly breathing. Use the diaphragm to draw air deep into the lungs. Inhale and let the stomach expand, then exhale to contract the stomach.
Do both exercises while breathing normally for 5–10 minutes each day. When you are familiar with these techniques, you can try them when you experience shortness of breath.
Avoid Inhaling Pollutants Outside The Home
Exposure to pollutants in the air can damage the lungs and accelerate aging. When you are young and strong, your lungs can hold pollutants significantly. However, as they age, they lose some of that resistance and become more susceptible to infection and disease.
First, you can start by avoiding inhaling cigarette smoke or not going out when the air quality is bad. Second, don’t exercise in a heavy traffic environment. Instead of being healthy, you actually inhale exhaust fumes which harm the lungs.
Apart from cigarette and vehicle smoke, pollutants can also come from the workplace. Occupations such as construction, mining and waste management can increase the risk of inhaling harmful pollutants. Always use personal protective equipment so that lung health is maintained.
Keep The House Clean From Pollutants
According to a report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, indoor air pollution is worse than outdoor!
This exposes us to the dangers of indoor pollutants, from chemical compounds in furniture and cleaning agents to foreign pollutants such as dust, animal dander, mites and insect excrement.
What can we do to reduce indoor pollutants?
- The house must be a smoke-free zone. So, no one is allowed to smoke indoors!
- Clean furniture at least once a week. If the floor is covered with carpet, clean it regularly to remove dust and mites.
- Make sure you have adequate ventilation in your home. Open windows as often as possible to increase indoor air ventilation.
- Avoid synthetic air fresheners that contain chemicals such as formaldehyde and benzene.
- Use a diffuser with aromatherapy oils and essential oils to naturally scent the air.
- Keep the house clean, especially if you have pets. Mold spores, dust and pet dander can get into the lungs and cause irritation.
- Use natural cleaning products whenever possible, and open windows when using products that generate smoke.
Drink Enough Water
Our lungs have a special layer of mucus that protects them. If it is too thick, then it can make breathing difficult. In addition to doing the previous tips, the mucous lining of the lungs can be maintained by keeping fluid levels in balance.
These tips also apply to those who suffer from respiratory problems. For patients with respiratory disorders, such as COPD, drinking enough water can make it easier for you to expel phlegm which causes shortness of breath.
Apart from water, you can also drink green tea and coffee to nourish your lungs. Green tea contains the antioxidant compound epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which relieves inflammation in the lungs. EGCG has also been shown to be effective in treating pulmonary fibrosis.
Meanwhile, coffee also has antioxidant compounds and caffeine. Not only keeps you awake, caffeine makes blood vessels relax. Therefore, coffee may help relieve asthma symptoms in the short term.
Eat Foods That Are Healthy For The Lungs
In addition to meeting fluid needs, consumption of vegetables and fruit is also recommended to maintain lung health. In addition to supplying fluids, vegetables and fruits have antioxidant compounds and other healthy components that are useful for the lungs. Some of the recommended fruits and vegetables for lung health are:
- Garlic and onions
- Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and kale)
- Beet greens
- Red paprika
- Grapefruit or grapefruit
- Chocolate or cocoa
In addition to the vegetables and fruits above, foods that are high in protein, omega-3 acids, and high in vitamins and minerals such as nuts and seeds, salmon, and oysters. For people with respiratory problems, it is advisable to avoid saturated fatty foods such as processed meats, margarine and lard.
Discipline in Practicing Health Protocols
Remain disciplined in practicing health protocols to reduce the spread of disease, for example COVID-19. Be sure to:
- Wash your hands with running water and soap for 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer.
- Avoid crowds by staying at home, especially if you are not fit, unless there is an urgent need.
- Wear a mask when leaving the house.
- Cover a sneeze or cough with your elbow or a tissue, then take the first step.
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose and mouth, especially if you haven’t washed your hands.
Get the Necessary Vaccinations
Vaccinations are important to keep the body healthy, and this also applies to the lungs. So, try to get vaccines for the health of yourself and those you care about.
The tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccines are effective in preventing the possibility of getting whooping cough or pertussis, and the pneumonia vaccine is effective in protecting yourself from pneumonia. Also, don’t forget to get the flu immunization to prevent the flu from attacking the respiratory system.
In addition, get a complete and booster COVID-19 vaccination when it is available.
The lungs are one of the vital organs. Without it, we can’t breathe. However, often we unknowingly carry out various activities that harm the lungs. Come on, make a change!
Practice several ways to maintain lung health above. Starting from the habits of daily living, we can protect these vital organs from dangerous diseases or infections.