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Breathing powers your body, your brain—and your life. But because it comes so naturally, you probably don’t think much about your breath. Your lungs perform essential work every day, so it is important not to take them for granted. Make lung health a priority. Here are some steps you can take:
Smoking cigarettes is the most preventable cause of lung damage. It is the leading cause of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It can narrow the air passages, making breathing more difficult and cause swelling in the lungs, leading to chronic bronchitis. Smoking contributes to the early deaths of more than 37,000 Canadians every year.
If you smoke, you will benefit almost right away from quitting. Within eight hours, the oxygen level in your blood will return to normal. In just three days, your lung capacity will increase. When you are ready, The Lung Association can provide help with quitting smoking.
Second-hand smoke increases the risk for ear infections, colds and bronchitis, increases the likelihood of children developing asthma and raises the risk of cancer, heart disease and other lung diseases. Outdoor air pollution and chemicals in your home or workplace can all cause or worsen lung disease. Don’t exercise outdoors on bad air quality days. Make your car and home smoke free. Eliminate harmful chemicals and fumes you might be breathing in, such as solvents and chemicals, and test your home for radon. Radon is a colourless, odourless gas that is produced from the natural breakdown of uranium in rocks and soil. Long-term exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in Ontario, linked to 850 lung cancer deaths each year.
Protect yourself and those around you from colds and other respiratory infections. Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based cleanser. If you get sick, stay home from work or school until you are feeling better. Get the flu shot every year! The pneumonia vaccine is also recommended for people over 65 or anyone with a chronic health problem, such as heart or lung disease and diabetes. Talk to your healthcare provider to find out if the pneumonia vaccine is right for you.
Aerobic exercise helps strengthen your breathing muscles, improve your lung capacity, boost your immune system and maintain a healthy body weight. Get active most days of the week to keep fit. Find an exercise or sport that is right for you and do it regularly.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle helps prevent disease. Having regular check-ups is also important, even when you are feeling well. Lung disease often goes undetected until it is serious. During a check-up, your healthcare provider will listen to your breathing. Be sure to tell him or her about any symptoms such as chronic cough or shortness of breath. Early detection of lung disease is the key to prompt and successful treatment.