7 Steps for Better Lung Health

The infamous Marvel Winter Soldier once said “it always ends in a fight.” This statement holds true because threats constantly put us at risk. Our lung health is at risk. In the past it was the Black Death AKA the bubonic plague and lack of indoor plumbing (think bathrooms and sinks). Today it’s the yearly flu, along with the coronavirus disease (which especially effects those with bad lung health). Over 100,000 people in the United States died from the coronavirus in a 6-month period; this is a threat we must fight through knowledge and preparation.

We’ve been lulled into important trends, such as using more sunscreen and submitting to the almighty avocado toast. Even Cheerios has some support from the American Heart Association. Worthy issues no doubt, however, the list has expanded. With this new epidemic, the pendulum finally swings back to the body part we least focus on…. our lungs!

Yes, lungs take in oxygen; that’s usually all we need to know outside of the medical profession. They also help to release carbon dioxide from the bloodstream, and provide the airflow that affects our vocal sounds (useful for Adele and Taylor Swift).

For the sake of our lung health, it’s crucial to adopt healthy habits now, in order to keep our lungs at peak performance in any mask-centric crisis.

1. End Smoking Habits

This includes cigarettes, e-cigarettes, marijuana, and vaping. Our lungs were meant to breathe in oxygen specifically. These manufactured or chemically altered items increase the amount of mucus and toxins in our bodies, reducing overall lung capacity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say 200,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer each year. The new vaping trend doesn’t have long term data on how it affects the body, but I’m guessing it won’t do our lungs any favors.

2. Schedule Lung Exercises

Normally exercises increase our heart rates and automatically give our lungs a workout. As an extra precaution we must specifically target deep breathing. Walking or meditating while breathing deeply is an easy choice, as it can be performed during shelter-in-place protocols. It’s also the preferred option for those with existing heart or respiratory issues. If you have no health restrictions, then regular high-intensity workouts are great for your lungs.

3. Avoid Harmful Toxins

Exhaling releases carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, cars zipping by every second have carbon dioxide emissions that harm the environment. Those who do their powerwalks or morning yoga in these environments are likely to breathe it in (talk about coming full circle). You wouldn’t want anything from an engine on your plate; we assume the same goes for your lung health. Minimize your carbon dioxide intake by exercising in car-less spots. On the beach, in an empty parking lot, or a remote walking trail are great examples. If your options are limited, then exercise well before or after rush hour in your neighborhood.

4. Watch for Infections

Grandma’s advice never gets old: Hydrate. Avoid the junk food. Wash your hands multiple times per day. Common sense that doesn’t get through sometimes requires a kick in the rear end.

Hand sanitizer helps but soap is proven to kill more germs. While a job is a luxury in this epidemic, never go to work when you’re sick. Never allow one of your sick employees to work. And most importantly, wipe down surfaces that are constantly touched.

5. Isolate

We don’t bear witness to what other people touch. Germs and viruses can stay on our clothes and in our vehicles. While no one means to spread a virus, there are too many people and variables to account for. The best thing you can do is be your own ambassador; minimize your contact with others. Those dirty roommate stories exist for a reason. Also, those smelly subway stories exist for a reason. In past lives we made fun of people with OCD, but now OCD is the status quo. Think twice before letting questionable people enter your space.

I adore my lungs. While I don’t always show them love, I acknowledge their usefulness. The coronavirus is manageable based on the evidence we now have. But facts and evidence are useless if we don’t act and prepare. Spreading randomly and quickly from person to person means we must follow additional steps to remain safe. There’s always a fight, but let’s make this a fight we can win. Your lungs will thank you for the extra safety measures for lung health.