Posted: August 2023
(3 Minute Read)
The health of your lungs is something that is easily overlooked or taken for granted. While you may desire to have a healthy body overall, how to keep your lungs healthy is something you may not think about very often.
Yet achieving or maintaining healthy lungs is essential for long-term health and well-being, especially in our current society where exposure to toxins and things that can harm the health of your lungs are so prevalent. Not having healthy lungs can put you at risk for many serious diseases and can greatly impact the quality of your life.
By practicing healthy lifestyle habits and eating a well-balanced diet that includes a combination of lung-healthy foods, you can take proactive steps toward better lung health and overall well-being. Read on for seven diet and lifestyle tips to keep your lungs in good condition.
This is the most important step toward good lung health. According to the CDC, smoking causes about 90% of all lung cancer deaths, and about 80% of all deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). What's more, cigarette smoking increases the risk of death from all causes in both men and women. That's why quitting smoking (or never starting in the first place) is an essential factor in keeping your lungs healthy. While secondhand smoke is trickier to avoid, it is important to do what you can to limit being in areas where smoking is prevalent.
Exercise helps strengthen not only your muscles, but also your heart and lungs. This allows them to work more efficiently and can enhance lung capacity, or how much air they can hold.
Being physically active may also lower your risk of lung disease. According to the American Lung Association, both cardio (activities that get your heart rate up such as running or jumping) and strength training exercises (activities that target your muscles like weight lifting and push-ups) benefit your lung health. Doing a combination of these exercises throughout the week at a capacity that works for you is good practice for healthy lungs and an overall healthy body.
Breathing exercises are known for being effective at lowering stress, but they are also great for your lungs. Practicing deep breathing exercises helps strengthen your diaphragm, which is the muscle right below your lungs that helps you breathe. When practiced regularly, they can also train your body to breathe deeper and more efficiently, helping to remove stale air from your lungs and increase oxygen levels.
Examples of breathing exercises include:
Being well-hydrated is a lesser-known part of how to keep your lungs healthy. Drinking enough water helps keep your airways moist and supports proper respiratory function. On the flip side, being dehydrated can reduce how well your lungs work. Some signs you are dehydrated could include dark urine, unexplained fatigue or dizziness.
You can improve your overall hydration by keeping a water bottle on hand and sipping from it frequently throughout the day. For a bit of flavor, try adding some fruit slices. Eating water-rich foods like berries, citrus fruits and watermelon can also help. Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol as they can lead to dehydration.
Pollution is a type of toxin that, when breathed in, can damage the health of your lungs, especially as you get older. There are many forms of air pollution, and they can be found at various places around your city, home and neighborhood. While it is impossible to avoid pollution completely, there are some steps you can take to lower your exposure, such as:
There are many nutrients that help support the health of your lungs. Foods rich in antioxidants, such as berries, tomatoes and leafy greens, can help protect lung tissues by fighting off free radicals, which are a type of toxin that can harm your body's cells. In fact, research has shown that consuming more tomatoes and other fruits may help delay the decline of lung function in adults, particularly former smokers. Other foods that can help support healthy lung function include high fiber foods like whole grains, nuts, vegetables and beans.
After focusing on eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, adding supplements to your daily routine can help you get enough nutrients to support the health of your lungs. Some lung health supplements to consider include:
As with all supplements, it is important to talk with your doctor before starting any new supplement regimen and to seek professional guidance on dosing that is right for you.
The health of your lungs impacts the health of your whole body. By prioritizing lung health through practices like eating healthy foods, not smoking, exercising and taking supplements if needed, you may be able to enjoy a better quality of life and reduce the risk of respiratory conditions.
Written by: Joanna Foley, RD
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
These articles are intended for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in these articles. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise or medication regimen.