We tend to move through life living and breathing and taking for granted the organs which are so hard at work every day. Pause a moment and take a deep breath. That’s your lungs at work. But did you know that Lung Cancer is the #1 cancer killer worldwide? The #1 risk for lung cancer is smoking. Despite the incremental decrease being seen, statistics show that 19% of adults worldwide still smoke tobacco, also creating the problem of second hand smoke for a significantly larger percentage.
WHY SHOULD I QUIT SMOKING?
- Tobacco smoking has been found to be harmful to almost every organ in the body and diminishes a person’s overall health. There are many cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco smoke, some of which are benzene and arsenic. Some of the common diseases that are associated with smoking are chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, chronic bronchitis, osteoporosis, worsening of asthma symptoms in adults, and peripheral vascular disease.
- Smoking does not only lead to lung cancer but other cancers such as lung, esophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder and stomach cancer. This makes smoking the leading cause of cancer and cancer related deaths.
- Smoking makes it harder to achieve pregnancy. Women who smoke during pregnancy have a higher risk of miscarriage, having an ectopic pregnancy or premature delivery.
- Smoking not only affects the person who smokes but also those around them. Second-hand smokers or passive smokers are at risk for the same diseases seen in active smokers. Second-hand smokers have an increased risk for lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, complications during pregnancy and death.
However quitting smoking has great benefits as it lowers cancer risk. Studies have shown that people who quit smoking regardless of their age, are less likely to die from smoking-related illnesses than those who continue to smoke. If you smoke, today is your day to take a step towards change. You can find information on how to quit smoking at smokefree.gov.
WHEN TO SEE YOUR DOCTOR
There are some signs which can indicate an urgent need to have your lungs checked by your doctor such as chronic cough (cough lasting 8 or more weeks), wheezing, chronic mucus production, shortness of breath, coughing up blood and chronic chest pain (lasting a month or more and getting worst when you breath or cough). Never be afraid to get a check-up. Early detection is crucial for treating any illness with greater effectiveness.
10 TIPS FOR LUNG HEALTH
- Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke
- Ensure the best air quality possible. Find ways of reducing pollutants and contaminants (Eg. Introducing living plants into your home removes toxins from the air and also adds oxygen)
- Keep your environment clean. Regular cleaning of carpets, elimination of roaches and other pests, regular dusting etc.
- Switch to a whole food, plant-based diet which is high in fiber, antioxidants and other compounds which improve lung function.
Eg. Beetroot and Beet greens- contains compounds, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C and carotenoid antioxidants which benefit lung function
Tomatoes- contain lycopene which is associated with lung health
- Keep hydrated. Water helps keep the mucosal lining around the lungs thin so your lungs can function more effectively.
- Avoid contracting respiratory illnesses as best you can by regular handwashing and avoiding crowds or areas where disease is easily spread when possible during an outbreak or flu season
- Regular cardiovascular exercise (30 minutes of walking, jogging or playing a game 5 days per week is ideal)
- Deep breathing exercises
- Maintain a healthy posture. Give your lungs more room to expand
- Laugh more. It helps force air out of the lungs and upon inhalation, introduces more oxygenated blood
To your health,
Dona Cooper-Dockery, MD