Most Effective Ways to Promote Lung Health

Taking care of your heart might seem like common sense—if you implement regular cardio-vascular exercise, limit unhealthy fats, while incorporating heart health fats into your daily diet. However, contemplating effective ways of taking care of your lungs might leave you a little flabbergasted. Research from the American Lung Association (ALA), points to eight ways to promote lung health and avoid chronic conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)…

1. Boost Antioxidant Intake

We naturally equate good nutrition with good health, but nutrient-rich foods (not supplements) rich in antioxidants and glucosinolates (biological compounds with proven anti-cancer attributes), are linked to efficient lung function and health. For instance, research from the National Cancer Institute found that individuals who ate at least 5-servings of cruciferous vegetables (i.e., collard greens, bok choy, kale, arugula, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts) per week cut their risk of lung cancer by 50-percent vs. those who consumed low quantities of coniferous veggies.

2. Monitor Local Air Quality

You may be the fortunate resident of a city with low, year-round air pollution. For instance, Prescott, Arizona took top spot in the American Lung Association’s “Top 25 Cleanest U.S. Cities for Particle Pollution.” However, if you live in an area that’s rife with pollutants, running or doing anything outdoors might be a bad idea during certain months of the year or certain times of day. If you suffer from lung disease or a chronic lung disorder that makes you sensitive to ozone pollutants—it’s in your best interest to consult, the U.S. government’s Air Quality Index (AQI) monitor, before heading outside. AIRNow posts up-to-date details on local AQIs.

3. Be Proactive with Lung Health

The ALA suggests being proactive with lung health. That means a lingering cough, chronic bronchitis, asthma, or those suffering other lung conditions (i.e., COPD) shouldn’t ignore symptoms or breathing difficulties. Do you part by seeking medical treatment if you experience chest or lung pain, cough up blood, or experience a chronic cough for longer than a month. Your doctor may prescribe a preventive medication (i.e., inhaler) to decrease symptoms and prevent a dangerous respiratory infection.

4. Get Physical

While going for a jog or swimming laps won’t increase lung size—it will improve cardiorespiratory function. According to research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), regular exercise increases oxygen supply to your heart and muscles and strengthens respiratory muscles in the lungs. The study of 30 overweight teen test subjects with poor respiratory function, found that physical inactivity was a prime factor in decreased respiratory function. When half the group was assigned to 24-weeks of treadmill running, 3 days per week final conclusions indicated that aerobic exercise training had a positive affect on lung function.

5. Buy Environmentally-Friendly Products

Renovating your home can certainly improve its aesthetic appearance, but it can also put your lungs at risk if you’re using products (i.e., paint, fiberglass, cleaning products, or insulation) that contain harmful gases or toxic particles. Any DIY projects should be conducted in well-ventilated areas wearing breathing protection (i.e., dust mask). Focus your home improvements around environmentally safe products (i.e., water-based paints and buy chemical-free cleaners) to limit exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

6. Butt Out

When you ask Dr. Norman H. Edelman, the ALA’s chief medical officer, what’s the worst thing you can do to your lungs, he’ll tell you it’s smoking—hands down. Puffing away regularly on cigarettes, pipes, or cigars increases the risk of COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and lung cancer. The Canadian Cancer Society claims that smoking (yes, even regular exposure to second hand smoke) is the leading cause of lung cancer, with roughly 85-percent of lung cancers cases attributed to smoking. Of course, the risk of lung diseases increases depending on smoking duration and intensity.

7. Wear Breathing Protection

If you work as a welder, construction worker, painter, esthetician, mechanic, or one of the many other jobs that expose you to dust, chemicals, fumes, or exhaust—you should be wearing breathing protection while you work. In fact, statistics from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration point to the dangers of occupational asthma in workplaces that don’t provide protective breathing equipment of for employees who refuse to wear dust masks and other  breathing protection at work.  

8. Control Indoor Air Pollutants

You can be exposed to air pollution indoors just as easily as you can be exposed to it outdoors. Pet dander, mold, building materials, air fresheners, ventilation systems, and fireplaces can all decrease the quality of the air you’re breathing inside your home. According to recommendations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), regular cleaning of indoor ventilation systems (i.e., ducts and fireplaces), vacuuming and steam cleaning carpets and fabric furniture of pet hair and dander, inspecting for mold, and using air purifiers can decrease particle pollution and increase indoor air quality.  


Emily Lockhart

Emily Lockhart is a certified yoga instructor and personal trainer. She believes that being healthy is a lifestyle choice, not a punishment or temporary fix to attain a desired fitness or body image goal. Anna helps her clients take responsibility for their own health and wellness through her classes and articles on ActiveBeat.