Respiratory Health

The respiratory system automatically controls one of the most important functions of our bodies – breathing. In recognition of Respiratory Care Week, which takes place from October 22 to 28, let’s take a look at this bodily system and review some tips for keeping it healthy.

The respiratory system is highly sensitive and works automatically to take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide to keep our system in balance. The lungs are the primary organs involved in this system, but the nose, mouth, sinuses, trachea (windpipe), bronchial tubes, alveoli, diaphragm and blood are also involved in respiratory function.

The most common disorders of the respiratory system include chronic conditions such as asthma, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and viral illnesses like influenza and pneumonia.

There are things you can do to improve the health of your respiratory system and prevent illnesses and chronic conditions.

Don’t smoke.  If you do, quit. Lifestyle choices such as smoking have a significant negative impact on respiratory health, as can things like asbestos exposure and environmental pollutants. Limit your exposure to pollutants when possible.

Exercise. Exercise positively affects respiratory health; it improves the efficiency and effectiveness of your entire respiratory system. Shortness of breath can be improved by gradually increasing your physical activity, though it is important not start any new exercise routine without consulting your doctor.

Eat more fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants are important for preventing damage to cells and reducing inflammation in the body. Vitamin A and vitamin C are two examples of antioxidant nutrients. Vitamin A is found abundantly in orange vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots. Vitamin C is plentiful in many fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits. Eating colorful fruits and vegetables every day is an easy way to consume more antioxidants.

Include healthy fats. Omega-3 fatty acids are also beneficial for respiratory health, and are found in foods like fish, walnuts and flax seeds. These healthy fats provide anti-inflammatory benefits and are important to include in your diet regularly.

Consider vaccinations. Pneumonia is a concern for the elderly and others with compromised immune systems. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungal infections, but bacteria is the most common cause and there is a corresponding vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the pneumococcal vaccination for babies and children under the age of two, adults aged 65 and older, and those with an increased risk for disease.

During Respiratory Care Week and all year-round, support healthy breathing by enjoying colorful meals containing fruits and vegetables and healthy fats, incorporating daily physical activity, and avoiding environmental toxins whenever possible.