Did you know that over 1,000 adults and children are currently waiting for a lung transplant in the United States?
October is Healthy Lung Month, a time to educate the public about the importance of protecting your lungs from harm, including bronchitis, mold, air pollution, and smoking. If you’re lucky enough to enjoy good lung health, appreciate your good fortune, and do whatever you can to keep it that way as long as possible. Here are five ways to maintain good lung health throughout your life.
1. Quit smoking or vaping
Your chances of developing lung, mouth, and throat cancer are all significantly higher if you smoke or vape. Add to that the elevated risk of chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and COPD, and you should have more than enough reasons to ditch the cigarettes and vapes for good.
2. Check the air quality
You may associate poor air quality with wildfires in the western United States or smog in cities like Los Angeles. However, pollutants can come from several sources and even small population centers struggle with smog. Your best bet? Use an app like AirNow to track air quality, and stay indoors if the numbers get too high for safe outdoor activity.
3. Wear a mask when cleaning or painting
Cleaning is a part of everyday life. Is it really necessary to mask up? If you’re using bleach-based cleaning products, the answer is yes! When selecting a mask, look for a respirator with specific filters for fumes like bleach. A typical mask works for dust particles, but will not protect you from harmful fumes. Inhalation of bleach fumes can cause shortness of breath, and in some cases, fluid build-up in the lungs. Also consider masking up when dusting or painting, as these activities can lead to irritation.
4. Test your home for radon
Can you name the second leading cause of cancer after smoking? The answer is radon exposure! It’s not a common topic of conversation, but the good news is that there’s an inexpensive way to test for radon in your home. Grab a test kit like this one on Amazon, or check your local hardware store.
5. Get regular exercise
No need to sign up for your town’s 10K run if that’s not your cup of tea! You can protect lung health through simple forms of cardiovascular activity like walking around the block. Aim for 20-30 minutes at least five days a week for maximum benefit.
When preventative measures don’t work
Taking steps to keep your lungs healthy is the best way to avoid a lung transplant, but a range of diseases can affect lungs even when preventative measures are taken. These include conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, cystic fibrosis, and the leading cause of lung transplant: pulmonary fibrosis. Patients with these conditions require regular medical care. If you are experiencing any signs of lung distress, see a doctor immediately. Warning signs of lung disease include:
- Chronic cough
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic mucus production
- Coughing up blood
- Chronic chest pain
For patients that do not respond to measures like medication or special breathing devices, a lung transplant can mean the difference between life and death. Every day, people return to their daily life activities alongside family and friends because of the selfless decision of donor heroes to give the gift of life through organ donation.
Passing on the gift of life and being someone’s hero is as easy as registering as an organ, eye, and tissue donor. By registering as an organ or tissue donor, you can bring hope to patients and families who have spent months or years waiting to take a healthy breath. Sign up for the donor registry and increase the chance that patients waiting will get the transplants they need to survive.