doctor holding lung graphic

Breathe Easy: Keeping Our Lungs Healthy

We breathe nearly 25,000 times a day – that’s more than 10,000 liters of air. Breathing for most of us is something we do without being aware of it. We pay no attention to this continuous activity as we work, play and sleep but our lungs are essential as they collect oxygen, which moves into the bloodstream so it can be delivered to our cells and remove carbon dioxide.

October is Healthy Lung Month, and November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month – a perfect time to prioritize our lung health.

Lung Disease

Lung disease encompasses disorders that affect the lungs, including asthma, chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

You can reduce your risk of lung disease and keep your lungs healthy with these six important tips:

  1. Don’t smoke or vape. Avoid secondhand smoke. Quit smoking as soon as possible.
  2. Avoid air pollution or products of combustion.
  3. Improve indoor air quality with filters.
  4. Exercise and stay active.
  5. Practice breathing exercises.
  6. Avoid respiratory illness – practice good hand hygiene, avoid sick people, minimize touching your face, and vaccinate against respiratory diseases such as the flu and COVID-19.

Common warning symptoms of lung disease may include unresolving cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, wheezing, excessive mucus production or recurrent respiratory illness. Seeing a pulmonologist may help to differentiate between lung conditions – not all that wheezes is asthma and not all shortness of breath in smokers is COPD, which is why it’s important to obtain an official diagnosis.

Lung Cancer

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lung cancer kills more men and women in the United States than any other cancer and more than 200,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with lung cancer every year.

But there’s hope through primary and secondary prevention.

Primary Prevention. Nearly 9 out of 10 lung cancers are caused by smoking cigarettes, according to the CDC. You can reduce your chance of developing lung cancer by not smoking, or if you currently smoke – quit.

Secondary Prevention. You can reduce your chance of dying from lung cancer through routine screening. Lung cancer screening is approved for people 50-80 years old, who have a moderate smoking history and have smoked within the past 15 years. Screening is shown to reduce your risk of dying from lung cancer by detecting it early when there are still treatment options.

UTMB Health’s Division of Pulmonary Critical Care & Sleep Medicine is dedicated to the prevention and treatment of respiratory diseases, offering outstanding clinical care for patients with respiratory disorders, and serving as a resource to regional physicians who share in the care of patients with respiratory diseases.