The lungs help oxygen from the air we breathe enter the red blood cells. Red blood cells then carry oxygen around the body to be used in the cells found in our body. The lungs also help the body to get rid of carbon dioxide when we breathe out.
Every day the delicate tissues of your lungs must defend against germs, tobacco smoke and harmful air pollutants that can damage airways and inhibit lung function. Many different kinds of particles can harm the lungs. Some are organic, meaning that they are made of materials that contain carbon and are part of living organisms (such as grain dusts, cotton dust, or animal dander). Some are inorganic, meaning that they usually come from non-living sources, such as metals or minerals (for example, asbestos).
In your airways, an accumulation of secretions (mucus) coats particles so that you can cough these up more easily. Additionally, cells lining your airways have tiny filaments called cilia that brush inhaled particles upward, out of your lungs. In the small air sacs of your lungs (alveoli), special scavenger cells (macrophages) engulf most particles and render them harmless.
Although your body has a natural defense system designed to protect your lungs, you need to do your part to keep your lungs healthy and reduce your risk of lung disease.
Cigarette smoking is the major cause of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Cigarette smoke can narrow the air passages and make breathing more difficult. It causes chronic inflammation, or swelling in the lung, which can lead to chronic bronchitis. Over time cigarette smoke destroys lung tissue, and may trigger changes that grow into cancer. If you smoke, it’s never too late to benefit from quitting.
Second-hand smoke, outdoor air pollution, and chemicals in the home and workplace all can cause or worsen lung disease. Make your home and car smoke-free. Avoid exercising outdoors on days with poor air quality index. Talk to your doctor if you are worried that something in your home, school or work may be making you sick.
A cold or other respiratory infection can sometimes become very serious. There are several things you can do to protect yourself:
Regular check-ups help prevent diseases, even when you are feeling well. Many diseases, including lung disease, go undetected until these become serious.
Aerobic exercise helps improve your lung capacity and general health.
Good nutrition is important to help the body resist infection.
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