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11 Tips to Keep Your Lungs Healthy and Live Longer

Updated: Feb 3, 2022

If you’ve experienced an episode of respiratory issues as a result of sickness such as a cold or COVID-19, you know first hand how much we take our breathing and respiratory health for granted. Most of the time, we breathe in and out with no problem and without even thinking about it. Then we find it extremely inconvenient when we can’t breathe through our nose or have shortness of breath.

But that is just a small inconvenience compared to the pain and suffering millions of people each year dealing with respiratory problems go through.

When we are healthy and can breathe properly, we don’t take care of our lungs the way we should. After watching my father suffer through Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), I realized the importance of keeping our lungs healthy and active. You can read more about his journey here. Nobody should have to endure the agony of not being able to breathe.

Read on for 11 tips for keeping your lungs healthy so you can prevent respiratory problems and disease.

Why is protecting your lungs important?

It seems simple, but we need oxygen to stay alive. When you breathe, your lung takes in oxygen that it then passes along to the bloodstream, which distributes it to your cells and organs. Your lungs also collect carbon dioxide that it expels from your body to balance the pH and avoid respiratory acidosis (or a high acidity).

One study conducted by the University at Buffalo shows the importance of lung health. After studying 1,119 people over nearly 30 years, researchers found that lung function was one of the most important predictors of longevity.

Improving lung health promotes proper lung function, helps you stay active, and improves your overall quality of life. Not to mention it prevents many deadly diseases that are affecting a huge portion of the world today.

What do you risk if you don’t take care of your lungs?

  • 3 million people die from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) every year, making it the third leading cause of death worldwide.

  • 334 million people suffer from asthma, making it the most common chronic disease of childhood affecting 14% of children globally

  • Pneumonia kills millions of people annually and is a leading cause of death among children under 5 years old

  • 1.6 million people die each year of lung cancer, making lung cancer the most deadly cancer

But the consequences go beyond death. I know from watching first hand, when it is difficult to breathe, it is challenging to do even the smallest tasks. Walking up a few stairs, getting dressed, or even getting out of bed can be too exhausting to handle. Our lungs naturally begin to decline after 35 years due to aging, making breathing increasingly difficult. This is why being mindful of your lung health is so important.

The good news is, because respiratory diseases are often linked to the environment, these conditions are more preventable than most other system diseases. Follow these tips to take care of your lungs and live a long, healthy life.

1. Improve Your Indoor Air Quality

According to the WHO, at least 2 billion people are exposed to indoor toxic smoke. They estimate that 4.3 million deaths per year can be attributed to indoor air pollution. In addition, it’s estimated that humans ingest microplastics at a rate of 11 particles per hour even indoors. Studies have concluded these microplastics stay in the lung and cause damage to lung tissue, leading to cancer, asthma attacks, inflammation, and lesions in the lung.

Common sources of unhealthy air include tobacco smoke, asbestos, burning fuels in your living area, microbes, toxic particles, fumes, plastic micro-fibers, or allergens. Remove the source of any indoor pollutants that you are able to, look into installing an air purifier, and remember to replace air filters in your home.

Talk to your boss about the air quality at your work if you think there is an issue and avoid Occupational Lung Disease. Control exposure at work to dust and fumes when possible, and always wear the necessary protective gear. This can have a substantial benefit in reducing the burden of respiratory related illnesses.

2. Minimize Exposure to Outdoor Air Pollution

Although this is something you don’t always have control over, you should take into consideration the air quality of your environment. If the day’s air quality level is poor, adjust your plans for the day if possible. You should avoid prolonged vigorous activity outdoors, as longer exposure and the deep breathing associated with exercise worsens the negative health effects.

You can find out the Air Quality Index (AQI) for your area through local weather reports, newspapers, or If your community media outlets do not offer air quality forecasts, call them and suggest they add it. Don’t forget to tell your elected officials that air quality and the effects of air pollution on our health are important topics to you!

3. Don't Smoke

The best measure to prevent lung disease is to reduce tobacco use. According to the WHO, smoking was estimated to be responsible for 1 in 7 deaths in men and 1 in 15 deaths in women globally in 2004. The rate of death in lung cancer patients is 25 times higher in smokers compared to people who have never smoked before, and smokers have an estimated 10 years less in their life expectancy.

If you currently smoke, check out these tips from the Mayo Clinic on how to stop or decrease your smoking. And when it feels difficult, remind yourself that you want to remain healthy and active as you get older, not wheezy, sick, and tired.

4. Spend Time Outdoors

Being outdoors has a long list of benefits for your physical and mental health. As long as you are in an area rated safe on the Air Quality Index, exposing yourself to fresh air will boost your mood, improve blood pressure, strengthen your immune system, and give you more energy.

Breathing in fresh air helps reduce airborne illness and infection because bacteria and viruses have a reduced chance of survival in fresh air (compared to warm, indoor, humid environments where they thrive). We tend to breathe deeper when outside, meaning a better circulation of oxygen through your lungs. This also allows your lungs to better filter out toxins in your body when exhaling.

5. Avoid Toxic Household and Beauty Products

From cleaning products to skincare, there are thousands of toxic ingredients in the products we use every day. These toxins are absorbed by our skin, breathed into our lungs, and eaten or drank. They then disrupt our bodily functioning and systems.

The U.S. allows manufacturers of cleaning products to use almost any ingredient on the planet, including known carcinogens and substances that can harm fetal and infant development. The Mayo Clinic notes that an international study found women who use cleaning products regularly have a more rapid decline in lung function overtime than women who do not use those products regularly.

It is always best to read the label before using a product! Look up ingredients that you’re not familiar with and stay away from harmful ingredients such as PPD, ammonia, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and formaldehyde. When you shop at Lulu Tru, you can trust that we’ve done the research to find only healthy, safe products for you and your family to use!

You can also use resources like the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning or their Personal Care Product lookup. The Environmental Protection Agency has a “Safer Choice” Approved list to help purchasers find products that perform and contain ingredients that are safer for human health and the environment.

6. Exercise

Just like regular exercise makes your muscles stronger, it also makes your lungs (and heart) stronger. As your endurance improves, your lungs are able to circulate oxygen more effectively. That means oxygen gets through your bloodstream quicker, leading to more efficient organs and systems. Some exercises also strengthen the muscles in the neck and chest, which include the diaphragm and muscles between the ribs that work together to power inhaling and exhaling.

Staying active will:

  • Reduce risk of serious illness

  • Strengthen bones

  • Improve flexibility and mobility

  • Support healthy lung function

  • Improve sleep

  • Reduce anxiety

  • Improve attention and memory

If you struggle with lung disease or shortness of breath, it can be daunting to think about exercise. But it’s important for everybody to be active and can improve your symptoms over time. You should consult with your healthcare provider on the best way to incorporate low to moderate exercise into your daily routine and watch the benefits to your health and mood!

7. Laugh More

Laughing not only boosts your mood and improves your mental health, but it is good for your lungs too! Remember the last time you laughed really hard, so hard you felt it in your belly? A good laugh is a great workout for your stomach muscles and increases the amount of air your lungs can take in. Similar to exercise, laughing clears out the stale air that gets trapped in your lungs (especially in people who have compromised lungs), and makes room for fresh air to help your body function.

8. Practice Breathing Exercises

There are a variety of different breathing exercises that healthcare professionals use to strengthen the lungs. Examples include “pursed lip breathing” in order to slow your breaths and “belly breathing” which helps to deepen your breath, but the list of breathing techniques is long. These exercises strengthen lungs, increase lung elasticity, circulate stale air, create greater lung capacity, reduce inflammation, and decrease toxicity in the body. There are also many other mental health and physical benefits from breathing exercises!

To learn more about breathing exercises related to pulmonary rehabilitation, check out this article by the American Lung Association.

9. Drink More Water

Staying properly hydrated is important for your overall health, and helps support healthy lung function. The New York Post reported that in a study of 2,000 Americans, only half of them received the recommended daily intake of water needed for proper functioning.

When you drink enough water, the lining of mucus inside your lungs stays thin, which helps your lungs do their job better. This becomes increasingly difficult when you don’t drink enough water, and is exacerbated when paired with a lung disease. Consult with your doctor to find the correct recommended daily amount of water for you.

10. Eat With Your Lungs in Mind

A healthy, well-balanced diet keeps your body systems processing correctly and efficiently. There’s no surprise that eating more natural foods and less processed, sugary foods is much better for the health of your lungs.

Choose foods that are high in fiber, like berries, peas, and black beans (research shows people with high-fiber diets had healthier lungs), and whole grains, like brown rice, whole wheat bread, oats, and quinoa (which contain antioxidants, vitamin E, essential fatty acids, and anti-inflammatory qualities). When in doubt, choose natural, colorful foods and watch your body feel better and better!

Stay away from processed meats, excessive use of alcohol, and sugary drinks. Too much salt is also not good for your lungs, as a high-sodium diet can worsen asthma symptoms.

11. Talk to Your Doctor About Lung Health

Have regular checkups and be honest with your doctor about how you are feeling. Early diagnosis is important and can lead to a better response to treatment. During regular checkups, your doctor will listen to your lungs and may be able to hear an issue before you can tell it is there.

The cost of preventing respiratory conditions is a small fraction of the cost of treatment after diagnosis. Not to mention the amount of pain and suffering you could save yourself and your loved ones by taking care of your lung health.

How to Get Healthier Lungs Today to Live a Longer, Happier Life:

  • Choose two tips from above and take action today. Write them down in your calendar, journal, or somewhere you will see them to remind you it is important.

  • Educate your family and friends on the importance of taking care of our lungs and the dangers the daily chemicals we use have on our bodies (you can share this blog post with them!)

  • Make a donation to the Lung Transplant Foundation to help somebody affected by lung illness and give them another chance at breathing again

*If you make a donation and want to honor my Dad, you can choose to write

“In Memory of Dan Patterson”. We love seeing support from people that cared

  • Next time you are shopping, consider the chemicals and toxins that come from those products. Check the labels and look up ingredients you aren't sure about. Choose safe, natural products to keep you and your family healthy for years to come!

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