(Family Features) The lungs are the centerpiece of your respiratory system. When you inhale, air enters your lungs and oxygen from that air moves to your blood. At the same time, carbon dioxide, a waste gas, moves from your blood to the lungs and gets exhaled. This process is essential to life.
Millions of Americans are living with lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, which make breathing difficult and can lead to other related problems.
To help protect your lungs from injury or disease, consider these tips from experts at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute:
Limit exposure to air pollution. You may be exposed to more pollutants indoors than outdoors. Ventilate indoor spaces and clean often to prevent buildup of mold and dust. Avoid cleaning products and air fresheners with strong odors. If you’re exposed to pollutants at work, use protective gear. Be sure to check the Air Quality Index before taking part in outdoor activities.
Be physically active. Exercise helps make your lungs stronger and lowers your risk of lung injury or disease. Aim for at least 2 1/2 hours each week, alternating between moderate activities like brisk walking and vigorous activities like running.
Aim for a healthy weight. Losing just 5-10% of extra weight can help improve overall health. To get and stay motivated, consider setting specific and realistic goals, exercising with a friend, tracking your progress and celebrating when you meet your goals.
Quit smoking (or don’t start). Quitting smoking offers many health benefits, including reducing the risk of developing COPD and other conditions as well as reducing lung infections, asthma symptoms and breathing problems. Avoiding secondhand smoke reduces those risks, too, so steer clear of areas where smoking is allowed and ask loved ones who smoke not to do it around you.
Get regular check-ups and keep vaccines up to date. Regular exams can help spot problems early. Talk to your health care provider about any breathing problems you may be experiencing as well as what to do to quit smoking, create healthy eating and exercise plans and get vaccinated for flu, pneumonia and COVID-19.