This page is a printable version of: https://www.iow.nhs.uk/news/Top-tips-for-lung-wellness.htm
Date: 28 September 2021
As we Celebrate ‘Love Your Lungs’ Week (21 to 27 June 2021) we have asked our Respiratory Physiotherapy Specialist, Fiona Biles, to come up with her ‘Top tips’ for lung wellness.
Words by Fiona Biles...
I am sure that most of us have thought about the health of our own lungs during the Covid pandemic. Apart from skin, our lungs are the only organ to have constant contact with the outside world from the moment of our first breath. They have an important role of conveying oxygen into our bodies but consequently are also exposed to many dangers. So what can we do to help our lungs?
1. Stop smoking – it’s a real drag
I know it’s obvious but we all know the consequences. How can it ever make sense to drag into our delicate lungs over 7000 chemicals with each puff - 70 of which are known to cause cellular changes? It’s crazy – stop now – it is the single thing which will make the most difference to the health of your lungs! Seek support and never stop trying to give up.
2. Shut your mouth!
No – I’m not being rude! It’s really important to breathe with your nose. The nose warms and humidifies air. It also filters out foreign particles and helps smooth airflow. It also releases nitric oxide (NO) which acts as a vasodilator and bronchodilator and has been shown to have antibacterial and anti-viral properties too. Nose breathing helps to slow your breathing down so that you don’t hyperventilate. It reduces tooth decay and in babies and children it helps the developing jaw and teeth to grow correctly. Consistent nose breathing night and day can help reduce snoring. So it’s good to encourage this habit from a very young age.
3. Keep hydrated
Drink plenty of water and fluids. Good hydration helps the cilia (the little hair-like structures which line the airways in your lungs) to keep beating effectively and keeps your natural mucus layer moist so it can be moved along.
4. Avoid air pollution
Both inside buildings and outside. Climate change is having increasing impact, reducing air quality. Throw your windows open in stuffy offices, don’t let your car engine idle in stationery traffic or by the school gates. Avoid areas where there is a lot of traffic – especially diesel lorries - by walking routes with less traffic.
5. Be active
Lungs love to be moved and it’s normal to get breathless because you’re exercising. You don’t have to be a gym bunny so get walking, singing, laughing and dancing – anything you enjoy and which gets you a bit breathless and gets your heart pumping.
6. Eat well
An all-round healthy diet helps support your immune system. Carrying too much weight can act like a very heavy vest over your chest and makes it harder to fully expand the lungs.
7. Practice good hygiene
Infections can really compromise your lungs and can cause lasting damage. We all know the importance of good hand hygiene but also consider good oral hygiene to reduce infection entering by damaged gums. Avoid crowds during the cold and flu season and if unwell with a cold, please keep it to yourself! It’s the same as the Covid message – Hands, Face Space!
8. Know your inhalers
If you take inhalers or help patients to use them make sure you know the correct technique. Amazingly the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology have said that healthcare professionals incorrectly use asthma inhalers 85% of the time! A poor technique means receiving a reduced dose, wastes money and is bad for the environment.
9. Get vaccinated
Working in healthcare it is important to have your yearly flu jab - and now, your Covid jab! It is vital in protecting YOU and those around you – including those who are vulnerable.
10. No slouching!
Look at your posture as slouching is bad for you! It compromises your diaphragm, preventing it from working efficiently and expanding your chest cavity and lungs. So remember to put your phone down; step away from your computer desk at regular intervals and have a good stretch and straighten up.
11. Practice relaxation
When stressed we tend to breathe ‘apically’ using only the top part of our lungs and tighten up our throats. It can become a habit when under long-term pressure. This is not good, it limits breathing efficiency and can make you even more stressed and anxious. Take some time to do some relaxed breathing – breathing through your nose using your belly.
For more information about Love Your Lungs week visit the British Lung Foundation website.