Three ways to lower your risk of lung disease
As we age, our risk for lung disease naturally increases. This is especially true for smokers, those who currently suffer from various respiratory ailments, such as asthma, and/or those prone to bronchitis and other respiratory infections.
Lung cancer is the most prevalent and deadly form of lung disease. Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women (not counting skin cancer) and is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women, according to the American Cancer Society.
Another common lung disease in which you can take action to decrease your chances of getting is COPD. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is actually a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make it difficult to breathe, including emphysema, asthma and chronic bronchitis. More than 11 million people have been diagnosed with COPD, and many more have the disease without knowing it, according to the American Lung Association. COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States.
While we can’t stop aging, there are things we can do now to lower our risk for lung cancer and disease. These include:
1. Don’t smoke or quit smoking
Smoking accounts for the vast majority of lung cancer and respiratory diseases. In fact, smoking causes about 85 percent, or six out of seven, of all lung cancers in the United States. If you’ve never smoked, don’t start. If you are a smoker, quit now. Just 10 years after quitting, the risk of dying from lung cancer is about half of that of a person who still smokes.
2. Guard yourself against respiratory infections
This is particularly important as cold and flu season is upon us. When colds and flu are not properly treated, they can evolve into more serious respiratory infections, weakening the lungs in the process. To reduce your risk of cold and flu, wash your hands regularly and get your annual flu shot.
If you do get sick, stay at home, get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids to keep the illness from developing into something more serious. If you are 50 or older, you may be at increased risk for pneumococcal pneumonia, which can become quite serious.
It turns out that using your lungs to breathe deeply is a great way to keep them healthy. Regular aerobic exercise forces you to take in more oxygen, thereby improving your lung capacity and function. Try to engage in some form of aerobic activity for at least a half hour, two to three times a week. A good aerobic workout is one that makes you breathe a bit more heavily and break a modest sweat.
In addition to these three ways to lower your risk of lung disease, it’s also important to maintain regular checkups with your primary care physician to ensure that your lungs – and the rest of your body – stay healthy. Find a primary care physician now.