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Categories > Breathing Disorders > Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

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Long live your lungs
Healthy habits can help you clear the air

» Clear the air

» Get tested

Healthy lungs for life

You can slow or reverse your lungs’ aging process with the following tips:

  • Clear the air. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. And stay away from secondhand smoke. If you do have a cigarette addiction, quit now to reduce your risk of lung cancer.
  • Check for radon. Radon, an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in soil and water, is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers. Have the radon levels in your home tested, especially if you live in an area where radon is or was a problem. Contact the local department of public health for more information.
  • Stay fit. Be sure to get regular exercise, at least 30 minutes worth, on most days of the week. It’ll keep your body—and your lungs—in good shape.
  • Eat right. A diet high in fat and cholesterol can increase your risk of developing lung disease, while a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower the risk.

In a single day, you breathe in an incredible amount of air: 8,000 to 9,000 liters worth. Your lungs remove waste from your blood, returning a refreshed, oxygen-full supply to your heart, while defending against toxins from the air. With each breath, you inhale pollen, dust, viruses, bacteria, exhaust fumes and tobacco smoke. And if you have asthma, are sensitive to airborne triggers or are dealing with injury or disease, you’re at greater risk of breathing troubles.

Clear the air

Smoking is the worst thing you can do to your lungs, and it can take several attempts to finally kick the habit. But it seems that telling smokers their “lung age” through lung function tests significantly improves the likelihood that they’ll quit. In fact, a 2008 BMJ study suggests that smokers are twice as likely to quit if their healthcare provider tells them how “old” their lungs are.

Get tested

Lung function tests, or pulmonary function tests, measure the size of your lungs, how much air you can breathe in and out, how fast you can exhale, how strong your breathing muscles are and how well your lungs deliver oxygen to your blood. They also check for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and determine how treatments for existing breathing problems are working. If you’re experiencing any breathing difficulties or are exposed to lung irritants on a regular basis, ask your healthcare provider if lung function testing could benefit you. Common lung function tests include:

  • Spirometry, which measures how much air you breathe in and out and how fast you can blow air out
  • Peak flow meter, which helps track breathing
  • Lung volume measurement, which shows how big your lungs are and how much air you have left in your lungs after you exhale
  • Lung diffusing capacity, which measures how well oxygen passes from your lungs to your bloodstream


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