Understanding the Importance of Comprehensive Lung Health
November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, which makes it a great time to think about not only lung cancer, but other aspects of comprehensive lung health. Your lungs are vital to the health of the rest of your body. As you breathe in and out, your lungs bring oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the rest of your organs and cells.
Unfortunately, oxygen is not the only thing you breathe in. Other particles and substances in the air can get caught in your lungs, causing a variety of different ailments. That’s why it is important to learn more about lung-related health complications that can be prevented!
Cancer in the Lungs
Lung cancer is the most fatal cancer in both men and women in the United States. Considering it makes up about 27% off all cancer deaths, it is expected that over 155,000 Americans will die from this cancer during 2016. It is also estimated that over 220,000 new cases will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year, and the five year survival rate of those is approximately 18%.
Lung cancer can be caused by a variety of different environmental factors. The number one cause is cigarette smoke, which can attribute to a handful of other types of cancer as well. Smoking causes 80 – 90% of lung cancer cases in smokers. Even those who do not smoke can suffer the consequences of cigarette smoke. Being exposed to secondhand smoke increases your chances of contracting lung cancer by 20 – 30%.
Other environmental causes of lung cancer include air pollution and carcinogenic chemicals, which can sound somewhat vague. Unfortunately, air pollution is made up of of levels different toxins depending on your geographic location. Outdoor air pollution cannot be changed on your own, however, you can control the quality of air in your own home. You can also limit your use of harsh products, such as cleaning solutions. Opt for natural products with a smaller ingredient list you can read.
Lung cancer is not the only type of cancer that can develop in lungs due to environmental factors. A particular environmental toxin, asbestos, can cause a very rare type of cancer called mesothelioma, which most commonly affects the linings of the lungs. Asbestos was a material commonly used in building materials for it’s heat and fire resistant properties. When disturbed and airborne the particles can be inhaled, and become stuck to the mesothelial tissue. Approximately 3,000 new mesothelioma diagnosis occur in the U.S. per year.
Mesothelioma has a very long latency period, ranging between 10 – 50 years. The average life expectancy after being diagnosed is about 12-21 months, and those who are diagnosed with stage 4 mesothelioma typically have less than a year to live. Due to the aggressive nature of the disease, the prognosis is most commonly very poor. However, with advancements in medicine, new alternative treatment options and immunotherapies are showing signs of hope for those battling mesothelioma.
Aside from the acute conditions like cancer, one can experience chronic lung conditions, while not seemingly as severe, these conditions are long lasting and must be managed.
Asthma, a common noncommunicable disease, is expected to impact approximately 235 million people worldwide. It is a chronic disease that can be caused by allergens (indoor and outdoor), tobacco smoke (first or secondhand), air pollution, and chemical irritants. Typical symptoms include fatigue, breathlessness, and wheezing.
While it is a chronic disease, symptoms can include acute reactions such as asthma attacks. During these attacks, the bronchial tube lining swells, making the airways more narrow. This reduces the amount of air flowing into and out of the lungs, making breathing very difficult. Asthma can be controlled and is commonly treated with medications such as inhalers, but it is also important for the patient to learn their triggers and avoid them.
Another lung condition commonly referred to as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This disease can include chronic bronchitis and/or chronic emphysema. Common symptoms include shortness of breath, persistent cough, and mucus. The most common cause of this chronic disease is smoking. Studies have shown that up to half of smokers over 60 will have COPD.
The number one way to help treat COPD and reduce your symptoms is to quit smoking. Further, many people take medication to help their breathing symptoms, and it is also suggested to do breathing exercises. Improving your overall physical wellbeing can help with COPD symptoms.
Tips for Lung Health
Comprehensive lung health is crucial to the rest of your body. In order to maintain your lungs health, and ensure proper function it is best practice to abide by the following so you can avoid lung related health complications:
● Don’t smoke, or quit smoking
● Avoid airborne toxins like asbestos, smog, etc.
● Do cardiovascular activity 2-3 times/week
● Practice breathing exercises
● Eat lung healthy foods
● Visit your doctor regularly
Of course, these tips don’t apply just to Lung Cancer Awareness Month in November – they can help you keep your lung healthy year-round! Each season may have its own particular lung dangers, but if you make a habit of keeping your lungs healthy throughout the year, then you will live longer and be able to better enjoy the pleasures each season has to offer!