Breath of Life – Keeping Your Lungs Healthy

Our lungs play a pivotal role in keeping us alive. One of the most powerful organs in the human anatomy, our lungs are responsible for feeding life-giving oxygen to our cells, and expelling waste carbon dioxide.

Without even thinking about it, we breathe an average of 15 to 25 times per minute. During a single breath of air, a complicated dance and exchange of gases takes place - oxygen intake, and carbon dioxide out take.

How does the respiration process happen, and more importantly, how could we damage our lungs, and what are the ways of keeping them healthy?

Lungs and the Breathing process

The lungs are a pair of spongy, air-filled organs situated in the chest and protected by the rib cage. It has a pink coloration and is made up of different sacs which all together constitute the breathing process.

With the aid of the diaphragm muscles, air enters into the nose, where it is filtered, warmed up and moistened. It then passes through the pharynx and rushes down the trachea (or windpipe) to enter the lungs. It divides and travels into the tubular branches called bronchi.These tubes are then subdivided into microscopic tubules called bronchioles, where the air is distributed into the diverse parts of the lungs. There are at least 30, 000 of them in each lung.

At the end of the bronchioles are microscopic air sacs called alveoli. The exchange of air primarily happens here where oxygen is being absorbed by the blood and carbon dioxide is removed upon the process of exhalation.

Red blood cells passing in the alveoli dump out their waste carbon dioxide and immediately load up on oxygen. When you expire, the waste carbon dioxide reverses direction, going up your trachea and out your nose or mouth.

To help and assist the alveoli in the process are interstitium which is a thin layer of air containing blood vessels and cells necessary for the entire breathing procedure.

Lung diseases

Because of air pollution, smoking and our genetic make-up, we acquire diseases affecting the normal functioning of the lungs. There are a number of lung diseases which are both harmful and life-threatening.

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Mainly due to excessive smoking, but also long-term exposure to chemicals, air pollution and dust, COPD is a progressive disease, which gets worse and worse. The person has difficulty inhaling air, often coughs, and is short of breath. This is due to burst alveoli (emphysema, see below), sagging and blocked bronchioles, and mucus congestion. This damage is permanent.

  • Pneumonia.A certain bacteria named Streptococcus pneumoniae is the primary cause of pneumonia, resulting in inflammation to one or both lungs.

  • Asthma.One of the most common lung problems is asthma, where air passages become blocked due to inflammation of the bronchi. This is often triggered by virus, allergies and pollution, resulting to shortage of breath and gasping. A severe attack could be fatal. People with allergies often will also have asthma.

  • Emphysema.Another effect of smoking is emphysema, where the alveoli are permanently scarred and damaged. It is much more difficult to breathe because the capacity for the exchange of gases is much weaker.

  • Tuberculosis.Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a bacteria causing tuberculosis. Common symptoms include cough, weight loss, fever and excessive night sweats.

  • Lung cancer. Smoking is definitely dangerous, as it is the major cause of lung cancer. There is a permanent damage of the lung,s particularly the alveoli. This is one of the major causes of death.

Keep Them healthy!

As indicated by surveys and various studies, smoking is one of the chief causes of lung diseases. It is now time to quit puffing that toxic smoke and start a healthier lifestyle. A single cigarette contains more than 50 known chemicals paralyzing the lungs and inserting the harmful contaminants in our bodies. Not only is your body affected but also the person standing near you as second-hand smokers are also affected.

Eat healthy; consume vitamin enriched foods like fruit and vegetables, especially the one containing Vitamins A, C and E. Always remember to hydrate your body by drinking ample amount of water and not sugar-rich sodas.

Lastly, exercise regularly to maintain a healthy circulation of air and blood in the body. Breathe long and well!