doctor examining woman with stethoscope

Amidst a global pandemic, it’s more important than ever to remember the vital role lung health plays in your overall wellness and happiness. While we’ve all needed a deep breath (or twenty) throughout 2020, the ability to take that breath can be easily taken for granted. 

Those who suffer from the coronavirus, asthma, COPD, lung cancer, or pneumonia know what it is to struggle for breath. The rest of us may simply assume that optimal lung function is a fact of life, uncompromised and unchanging.

As Healthy Lung Awareness Month, October and UAB Medical West ask us to spare a minute to think about our lungs. Numerous genetic predispositions, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices contribute to--or detract from--our overall lung health.

Indoor Pollutants

As we’ve come to learn from recent CDC recommendations concerning the coronavirus, breathing indoors is different from breathing outdoors. Pollutants can easily fill the air in confined spaces and, without wind or a channel to vent out, remain in the air for some time.

The Environmental Protection Agency lists common indoor pollutants including asbestos, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde (from pressed wood products), lead (from old paint), radon (from natural gas), and other volatile organic compounds (aerosol, disinfectants, pesticides, and stored fuels). 

Make sure to read all chemical warnings labels thoroughly before using them in a confined space. Of course, keeping your home/car smoke free will also help tremendously.

Outdoor Pollutants

Outdoor air quality is becoming a serious concern in urban and even some rural areas. Among other things, outdoor pollutants are associated with heart and asthma attacks, bronchitis, general respiratory systems, and premature mortality. 

Avoid exercising outdoors on days with poor or dangerous air quality, and try not to walk along highly trafficked city streets if you can otherwise help it. Most weather apps and websites provide daily air quality alerts for your area and should be consulted before taking a jog down the street. 

The effects of natural disasters can also increase our chances of exposure to outdoor pollutants. Wildfires especially pose a serious risk to lung health.

Allergens can also trigger reactions in vulnerable people. Your trusted source for weather forecasts may list the concentration of allergens on any given day.

Lifestyle Choices

With all the recent press, it should go without saying that certain choices such as smoking or vaping have a negative impact on lung health. While there is science yet to do concerning vaping, the verdict on smoking is in (and has been for some time).

Nicotine--no matter how it’s taken--causes blood vessels to constrict, limiting blood flow within your lungs and to your other vital organs. Lung, throat, jaw, mouth, and even stomach cancer have been linked to smoking, putting quite a bit more than just your lungs at risk.

Meanwhile, studies show that even 30 minutes of exercise each day can improve lung capacity and function. Exercise requires both the heart and lungs to work harder in supplying oxygen and strengthens both organs in the same way as lifting weights strengthens our muscles.

Seek Regular Healthcare

Even if you watch for indoor and outdoor pollutants like a hawk, stop smoking or vaping, and start exercising, you may still be at risk for diminished lung function. By seeking regular healthcare from a trusted physician, you can be sure you’re doing your part to keep your lungs healthy and strong.

This October and beyond, use a minute’s breath to consider your breathing. 


 For regular checkups or treatment for respiratory issues, contact UAB Medical West today!

Hoping we have a long and healthy life of easy breathing sadly cannot make it so. Doing your part on a daily basis to keep your lungs healthy and strong can go a long way in keeping you fit. For more tips and tricks concerning lung health, or to get your lungs checked out today, call 205-996-WEST. Serving Hueytown, Hoover, Bessemer, McCalla, and Vance, UAB Medical West is committed to your deep breaths.