More than ever, we need to ensure our lungs are in good working order. With Covid-19 attacking respiratory systems in both young and old, let’s take a look at what we need to know to protect ourselves. Professor of Chest Diseases and Pulmonologist Dr. Waleed El Serougi addresses the important points for us.
CWM: Dr. Waleed, what role does good lung health play in our overall wellbeing?
Your lungs keep you breathing, and also keep every other one of your organs functioning. Essentially, when you breathe in, the lungs take in oxygen and pass it along to the bloodstream, which brings it to your body’s cells. In return, it picks up carbon dioxide, which the lungs dispose of. Every time you breathe, this process is happening. That is why it’s crucial to keep your lungs healthy.
What are the common problems that affect the lungs and how can they be avoided?
Unfortunately, the environment does not always help the way that our lungs function. There are many risk factors that contribute to lung-related health complications. They can be things we don’t even realize that we’re breathing in. Sometimes they can be avoided, other times they cannot, however, it’s important to know what they are and know what you can do to protect your lungs.
Cigarette smoke is the #1 cause of lung cancer, with smokers accounting for 80% of all lung cancer diagnoses. Other lung conditions caused by cigarette smoke are COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. The smoke from cigarettes causes the lungs to become irritated, creating mucus in excess. This can cause excessive coughing and difficulty breathing.
Sadly, tobacco smoke doesn’t stop at smokers. Non-smokers who have been exposed to secondhand smoke have a 20-30% higher chance of eventually developing lung cancer.
This category consists of substances of a variety of different forms. Asbestos, at the top of the list, is a household carcinogen that can commonly be found in homes built before the 1980’s within insulation, tiling, plaster, etc. This fibrous material was once thought of as a miracle for its heat and fire resistant properties.
Other household carcinogens can be found in a variety of different products. It is best practice to always read the ingredients label before using a product! Look up ingredients you’re not familiar with to learn more about the products you’re using.
Outdoor Air Pollution
In a perfect world, the air we breathe in would be made up of 100% clean oxygen. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. There are many types of air pollution, both natural and manmade, that we consume daily. Natural air pollution includes smoke from wildfires or ash from volcanoes.
On the manmade side, the air is full of emissions that come from cars, planes, factories, etc. In locations where this is above average you’ll often hear the pollution referred to as smog. Other products like aerosol cans, pesticides and gas appliances can also contribute, on a smaller scale, to air pollution.
Tips to Keep Your Lungs Healthy
- Avoid Indoor and Outdoor Toxins
Stop smoking, and do your best to avoid second hand smoke and other harmful toxins in the air. Keep your senses keen to notice differences in your surroundings.
- Exercise to Keep Lungs Strong
Aerobic, cardiovascular exercise on a regular basis can help improve your lung function. It increases your body’s ability to use oxygen, as well as, more effectively removed carbon dioxide. Exercise doesn’t need to be lengthy. 30 minutes to an hour of walking or jogging a few times a week can be a huge help in your lung health.
- Deep Clean with Natural Products
Natural products are a safe bet for cleaning your home. It’s not uncommon for many regular cleaning products to contain a long list of hidden toxins that can be extremely hazardous to your lung health, and to health in general. Not to mention, these products are deadly to children or pets that could get into them.
- See Your Doctor for Regular Check Ups
It’s always good to make regular trips to the doctor for an annual check up. However, if you suspect something might be wrong, schedule an appointment to have it checked out right away, and to get vaccinations like the flu vaccine and the pneumonia vaccine.
What natural foods and supplements help in supporting lung health?
Water is essential for healthy lungs. Getting enough water is as important for the lungs as it is for the rest of the body. It helps keep the mucosal lining in the lungs thin, making it easier to drain.
Foods for keeping your lungs healthy
- Fish high in fat is an excellent choice of food for healthy lungs as it contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are linked with lung health.
- Apples, broccoli, apricots, poultry and walnuts.
- Vitamin D and E have been found to improve lung function.
Which exercises help the lungs?
Aerobic activities like walking, running or jumping rope give your heart and lungs the kind of workout they need to function efficiently. Muscle-strengthening activities improve your posture, and toning your breathing muscles. This helps your body use oxygen more efficiently and, with time, can improve your breathing.
What do we need to know about Covid-19?
Anyone can get Covid-19, and most infections are usually mild, especially in children and young adults. But if you aren’t in an area where Covid-19 is spreading, haven’t traveled from an area where it’s spreading, and haven’t been in contact with someone who has it, your risk of infection is low. There is currently no vaccine to prevent Covid-19 or even a direct effective anti-viral drug, so the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 2 meters), through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, these droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Some recent studies have suggested that Covid-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms as well.
People over 65 are most likely to get a serious illness, as are those who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities, who have weakened immune systems, or who have medical conditions including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
- Kidney disease that needs dialysis
- Cancer treatment, especially chemotherapy
- Liver disease
- Cigarette smoking
What are your top tips for simple steps to keep the lungs healthy at times like this?
- Wash your hands. It sounds simple and silly, but washing your hands (actually washing, not just rinsing!) and practicing good hygiene in general is very good for your lungs, especially during flu season. Use soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
- Maintain a safe distance between yourself and others (social distance) about two meters. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Cover your nose and mouth with your bent elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Stay home if you feel unwell.
- If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention. Call in advance.
- Follow the directions of your local health authority.
Dr. Waleed El Serougi
Address: Karma 1 Office Buildings, 2nd Floor Sheikh Zayed
Tel: 0100 400 0777/8