Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the 4th leading cause of death in the U.S. Here are 12 things you can do to keep your lungs healthy as you age!
- Don’t smoke (anything). Smoking is by far the worst thing you can do to your lungs. Even second- and third-hand (being in an environment where people have smoked) is dangerous.
- Air pollution can make COPD and asthma worse. Although U.S. air is cleaner than in the past, more than 154 million of us still live in areas where air pollution can be a threat to health. We can support clean air laws, make an effort to drive less and avoid burning wood or trash.
- Regular exercise makes it easier for lungs to keep you heart and muscles supplied with oxygen. Discuss an exercise regime with your doctor.
- People with lung disease are especially sensitive to air pollution. They need to be more aware of outdoor air quality, especially in the summer when ozone and other pollutants may make enjoying the outside unhealthy. The U.S. website, www.AIRNow.gov, has current information on air quality in your area.
- Indoor air quality can also be a problem; pet dander, wood stoves or fireplaces, mold, even some air fresheners and candles can be harmful. The EPA suggests improving ventilation, eliminating the sources, and using air cleaners. Check out www.epa.gov for more tips.
- A study in 2010 found that people who eat the most cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, bok choy) had nearly half the risk of lung cancer. Eating foods high in antioxidants is good for you lungs!
- Beware of high risk jobs such as construction or styling hair. Use protective equipment like respiratory masks when working in an environment with chemicals, fumes or diesel exhaust, to name a few.
- Get a flu shot! Respiratory infections can be devastating if you have lung problems. Seniors should get a pneumococcal vaccine as well.
- Choose safer cleaning products. The American Lung Association provides suggestions on www.healthhouse.org
- Have your home checked for Radon. Radon (a radioactive gas) is the main cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.
- See your doctor if you have a persistent cough lasting more than a month or have a hard time breathing with little or no physical exertion.
- Take intentional deep breaths throughout the day. This helps keep your lungs strong. It can also minimize stress.
If you take good care of your lungs, they will help your whole body stay strong. Your lungs won’t get into trouble unless you get them there, and lung damage is not reversible.
Published on March 30, 2012.