13, Oct 2020
An average person may take more than 672 million breaths during their lifetime if they live to 80.
During inhalation, air flows into the lungs to fill the tiny air sacs called alveoli. Blood circulates around these air sacs via small blood vessels.
At the juncture of where the blood vessels and air sacs meet, oxygen goes into the blood and carbon dioxide moves out of the blood to be exhaled.
With aging, both the airways and blood vessels become stiffer, and the air sacs expand, which makes it more difficult for gases to move into the bloodstream. This results in more shortness of breath while doing everyday activities, like walking a short distance or climbing a small flight of stairs.
A number of factors can accelerate your lungs' aging, including smoking, repeated respiratory infections and exposure to air pollution.
If you are a smoker, quitting is no doubt the best way to help your lungs' health.
Unfortunately, the damage smoking has already caused is permanent. However, after smoking cessation, it is believed that the lung inflammation that causes tissue damage will subside, and then over the next few years the decline in lung function will gradually return to its normal pattern.
If you have breathing problems or unexplained shortness of breath, different kinds of pulmonary function testing can be performed to work up a diagnosis.
One of the most common tests is spirometry, where you breathe into a tube attached to a machine called a spirometer. The machine measures how forcefully you inhale and exhale when you take a deep breath.
It can help diagnose breathing problems like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma.
Diffusion capacity is measured when you breathe in a small amount of a harmless gas called a tracer gas and then exhale. The amount of the gas remaining is then measured, which shows how much of your lungs is involved in gas exchange. This determines how efficiently oxygen moves from your lungs and into your bloodstream.
If you have breathing issues such as shortness of breath or unusual fatigue after any activity, chest pain, or chronic cough — you must see your doctor. However, even if you don't have these symptoms, you should still take measures to maintain healthy lungs and maybe even slow its natural decline.
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Here are some strategies that may help.
Eat more fruits. Studies have shown that a higher intake of antioxidant and flavonoid-rich fruits such as bananas, tomatoes, and apples, slows the decline in lung function, especially among ex-smokers.
Exercise. Regular weight training, core and upper-body training can increase bone strength and help maintain a breathing-friendly posture and take full breaths. Aerobic exercise can't increase lung function, but it can help improve lung capacity i.e., the amount of oxygen taken in per breath. Adding some resistance workouts in your regular routines, like walking while holding light hand weights or increasing the intensity and variability of treadmill workouts, raises your heart rate and thereby makes you breathe harder, which ultimately can help improve your lung capacity.
Repeated respiratory infections like pneumonia can further injure the lungs and damage airways.
Remember to get your annual flu vaccine. In addition, get vaccinated with pneumonia vaccines (PCV13 and PPSV23) as well.
The CDC recommends both vaccines for adults ages 65 and older.
First, you should receive a dose of PCV13, followed by a dose of PPSV23 a year later. Talk to your doctor for further advice.
We take our lungs for granted. We don't need to think about how they keep us alive and well. That's why it is important to prioritize your lung health.
October is healthy lung month, so love your lungs this October and work to make any necessary changes to keep them healthy!
Dr. Sue Mitra can be reached at 321-622-6222 or email@example.com. Call now to determine the next steps to ensuring your lung health.
Dr. Sue Mitra and her staff strive to offer their patients the best care, advice and services available in the medical field with the goal to keep patient healthy & happy.
Dr. Sue Mitra is board certified in international medicine. She is seen here with a Cologuard, which is a noninvasive colon cancer screening test. (Photo by: Tim Shortt/Florida Today)