Lung health is something most of us take for granted. Every day, we take up to 50,000 breaths without giving it a second thought.
But the lungs play a quietly critical role in keeping us healthy, says Erica Salem, senior director of strategy, programs and policy for the Respiratory Health Association.
“Your lungs provide oxygen and keep every other organ functioning by removing carbon dioxide from your body,” she says.
Unhealthy lungs can lead to respiratory problems that affect the quality – and even the length -- of our lives.
Fortunately, there are some simple, overlooked things you can do to boost your lung power. Following are four unusual ways to improve the lung health.
1. Eat tomatoes and apples
Smoking is unquestionably one of the worst things you can do to your lungs. Quitting can go a long way to repairing that damage.
And as soon as you put down that bad habit, begin to pick up apples and tomatoes on a regular basis.
Eating a diet rich in tomatoes and certain fruits -- particularly apples – appears to slow the natural decline in lung function in people who previously smoked, according to a recent study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Researchers believe something in these foods has a restorative effect on the lung damage caused by smoking.
Adults are urged to eat more than two tomatoes or more than three portions of fresh fruit – such as apples – each day.
Even better, researchers concluded that eating tomatoes also can slow the natural decline in lung health in people who have never smoked.
2. Laugh a lot
Everyone knows laughter is a great way to escape the blues. But the benefits of a good belly laugh extend beyond giving you an emotional lift.
Experts at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago report that laughter is actually a form of exercise that can boost the capacity of the lungs. It also clears stale air out of the lungs and allows fresher air to flow in.
And the benefits don’t end with your lungs. Laughter also can improve heart health by increasing blood flow, reducing stress hormones and tamping down inflammation of the arteries, according to the American Heart Association.
3. Clean house
Many different factors can impact how our lungs function. “Genetics, disease and the environment can affect the health of your lungs and cause respiratory problems,” Salem says.
Dust is among the environmental factors that can trigger lung problems for some people. That is why something as simple as regular housecleaning can help improve your lung capacity.
Dust clings to drapery and settles in carpeting. It collects on tabletops and settles inside books.
So, keep your house clean, whether you hire a professional service to do the job or do it yourself. And remember, an added benefit of the DIY approach is that you’ll get a little extra exercise, which helps build up your lung power.
4. Stay hydrated
Experts at the Rush University Medical Center point out that regular hydration thins out the lungs' mucosal linings, which helps the lungs to perform more efficiently.
Drinking fluids is especially important if you have a respiratory disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Proper hydration is just one more way to boost your lung health – and thus, improve the quality of your life.
“When your lung health is affected, it impacts the quality of everyday life and can prematurely shorten your lifespan,” Salem says.