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Take a deep breath. Now, slowly, release it. We do this simple activity all day and rarely think about it. But our lives depend on it. Every cell in the body needs oxygen, which is in the air we breathe.

Your lungs receive this oxygen and then move it to the blood. Every cell in the body exchanges oxygen carbon dioxidethe so-called “waste gas” that your blood carries back to your lungs, where it is exhaled.

Even if you learned all this in a biology class in high school, you probably didn’t think much about your lungs – that is, until you had a reason for it. COVID-19 has made many of us focus on our own respiratory healthof course, but diseases such as colds, seasonal allergies and asthma also irritate these highly sensitive organs.

And while you know that smoking, pollution and viruses can damage your lungs, you may not be aware that obesity and stress can also harm them.

“Lung health affects the health of all our other organs and organ systems, especially our brain, circulation, intestines, immune function and musculoskeletal system, “says Stephen Baldassari, MD, MHS, Specialist in Pulmonary, Resuscitation and Addiction from Yale Medicine.” Our lungs and airways are directly connected to the external the world. With each breath we inhale what is in our environment. And ideally, we should only breathe clean air. “

We talked more with Dr. Baldassari and other Yale medicine specialists, from allergies and immunology to anti-obesity medicine, about lung health.

How obesity affects the lungs

There is a reason why overweight or obese people suffocate easily when climbing stairs or engaging in other physical activities.

“An important aspect of obesity is how it affects lung volume,” explains Jorge Moreno, MD, a specialist in obesity medicine from Yale Medicine. “If someone is obese, they can’t always get a full breath or full volume into the lungs, which can cause breathing problems.”

In particular, the extra fat on the abdomen inhibits the ability of the diaphragm (the muscular wall between the chest and abdomen) to properly draw in air and dilate the lungs. People who are obese usually have smaller lung volumes because of this, which leads to shortness of breath, says Dr. Moreno.

Hormonal factors also act for both men and women. As fat accumulates under the skin, fat cells secrete hormones. These hormones can cause inflammation throughout the body, including in the lungs, explains Dr. Moreno.

Severe pneumonia was an early problem for many patients with COVID-19. For physicians such as Dr. Moreno, it was no surprise that obesity has become a leading risk factor for severe disease from COVID-19.

“There are two stages of COVID. The first involves the symptoms of the common cold, which are typical and in many cases they pass,” says Dr. Moreno. “Another stage is the inflammatory stage, in which the lungs can become inflamed and damaged, which can lead to problems with the heart and other organs. This has led to severe illness and death. ”

Obesity is what Dr. Moreno calls a “pro-inflammatory condition.” If we add to this the effects of the virus, the theory is that the inflammation intensifies even more, he adds.

Even for people who managed not to get COVID, the pandemic has become a problem. For example, working from home, most of the day tied to a computer and more hours can make it difficult to find time to eat well and exercise.

“One piece of advice is to try to plan your meals better. We can be flexible when we’re at home, but that can mean eating what we have in the fridge,” says Dr. Moreno. “Instead, try to be careful about what you eat. This also applies to alcohol.”

Dr. Baldassarri recommends daily exercise and a diet consisting mainly of whole foods, vegetables, fruits, high in fiber and vegetable protein. “Try to do moderate and vigorous exercise for at least 20 minutes every day,” he says. “If you can do more than that, it’s even better. But any amount of exercise, even a few minutes a day, is better than none. healthy diet and exercise is great for lung health and overall. ”

How stress harms the lungs

У stressful situations, your body secretes hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which can promote rapid breathing. If your lungs are healthy, it’s not dangerous. However, in people with chronic lung disease such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or asthma, the lungs cannot move as much air as needed. This can increase shortness of breath and can contribute to a feeling of panic.

More cortisol secretion can also cause other problems, including increased appetite. Or, in smokers, stress can cause the urge to smoke more, Dr. Baldassari notes.

“We know that cigarette and alcohol sales increased during the pandemic,” said Dr. Baldassari. “These trends probably reflect the stress we feel. Stress affects our entire body and is such an important factor that determines our health.”

It is best for lung health to lead a healthy lifestyle that includes proper nutrition, exercise, non-smoking and non-smoking and minimizing stress, says Dr. Baldassari. “We can reduce stress by getting some sleep at night and taking some time each day to meditate and focus on breathing exercises,” he says. “It’s also important to spend time with friends and family who bring us positive energy.”

How air quality affects your lungs

Contaminants both indoors and outdoors can cause or worsen lung infections, cancer and other diseases including asthma.

In the home and workplace chemicals, radon, asbestos, construction and paint products, carbon monoxide, carpets (which can trap contaminants and allergens such as dust mites, pet hair and mold), lead and water are some examples things. which can make the air around us unhealthy.

Your exposure to outdoor air pollutants – from car exhaust to power plants before forest fires – can be harder to control, but it is important to know that such exposure can also cause asthma episodes, make people ill and adversely affect the development of lung children.

You can check your local air quality index, a system that tracks ozone (smog) and particulate pollution (ash, power plants and factories, car exhaust, soil dust and pollen) and other common pollutants to know when not to spend too much time outdoors. The index has color coding and ranges from “good” air quality green to “very unhealthy” purple.

Many media outlets, including websites, newspapers, TV and radio stations, report on the local air quality index, and you can also find your location on It is especially important to avoid training outdoors in unhealthy air because the effects of pollution on the body are exacerbated by deep rapid breaths that people take during exercise. It is also best to avoid training near places with high traffic in general, and especially if the air quality is poor.

People with asthma are particularly sensitive to poor air quality, says Jason Kwa, MD, allergist and immunologist from Yale Medicine. “We know that asthma is more common in urban areas and in people who live near major roads,” he says.

As infections damage the lungs

Infectious respiratory diseases, including influenza, COVID-19, pneumonia, pertussis (pertussis), RSV and colds can damage the lungs. This is especially problematic because these conditions are easily transmitted from person to person.

Most types of lung infections are treatable, but they can also be dangerous for infants, the elderly and people who have lung disease or a weakened immune system. Fortunately, there are vaccinations (except RSV and B the common cold) is available for many common lung diseases.

One of the benefits of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has highlighted the importance of vaccination in general, says Jeffrey Chap, MD, director of the Yale Center for Asthma and Respiratory Diseases.

“Because of COVID we have raised awareness about lungs viruses – how they can affect the lungs, and what role vaccination plays in preventing these diseases, “he says.” Vaccination has been at the forefront of many people’s conversations at the table, and that’s good. Awareness of society will ultimately help people take better care of their lungs. ”

Stop lung damage before it becomes fatal

Citation: A Guide to Keeping Your Lungs Healthy and Functional (May 20, 2022), Retrieved May 20, 2022, from

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