Inhale. Exhale. What Your Lungs Do for You.

Inhale. Exhale. What Your Lungs Do for You.

Inhale. Exhale. What Your Lungs Do for You.

Breathe in. Breathe out. It’s something that we do every day, every waking minute. It relaxes us, wakes us, and keeps us alive.

The lungs are part of the respiratory system — organs and tissues that work together to help you breathe, says the American Lung Association. leaving site icon They move fresh air and oxygen into the body while removing waste gases. 

Every cell in the body needs oxygen. As we breathe, oxygen enters the bloodstream and moves throughout the body. Blood carries oxygen to each and every cell. As it interacts with cells, oxygen is exchanged for waste (carbon dioxide gas). The blood then carries the waste back to the lungs so it’s removed from the blood stream and exhaled. This gas exchange happens automatically and is vital for the body.

Protect Your Lungs

As we age, the lungs lose some of their ability to move fresh air and oxygen into the body and get rid of waste. So, it’s important to prioritize lung health and not take it for granted.

To keep your lungs healthyleaving site icon

Get regular checkups. Even if you aren’t sick, regular annual wellness exams can help to prevent serious illnesses. This is true for lung disease that often goes undetected until serious symptoms arise. During checkups, the doctors or providers will listen to your lungs and breathing.

Exercise: Physical activity is good for your overall health. Exercise helps improve lung capacity. Breathing exercises can also boost your mood and help you relax.

Don’t Smoke: Cigarette smoke is the major cause of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) — including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It also causes chronic inflammation in the lungs, which leads to chronic bronchitis. Over time, smoke destroys lung tissue and may even lead to cancer. It’s never too late to quit.

Avoid exposure to pollutants: Pollutants include outdoor air pollution, chemicals used at home or in the workplace and radon. They can all cause lung disease or make it worse. Make your home and car smoke free. Avoid exercising outdoors on bad air days. Test your home for radon.

Prevent illness and infection: Protect yourself from colds and other respiratory infections.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water. Use alcohol-based cleaners as a substitute if you don’t have access to a sink.
  • Get vaccinated against the flu. Ask your doctor if the pneumonia vaccine is right for you.
  • If you get sick, stay home. Help protect the people around you by keeping your distance.
  • Practice good oral hygiene.  Brush your teeth at least twice a day. It can prevent germs from turning into infections.
Sources: How Lungs Work, leaving site icon 2023; Protecting Your Lungs, leaving site icon 2023, American Lung Association

Originally published 8/3/2018; Revised 2022, 2024