The respiratory system is generally viewed as the lungs. The main job of the lungs is to inhale oxygen-rich air and expel carbon...The respiratory system is generally viewed as the lungs. The main job of the lungs is to inhale oxygen-rich air and expel carbon dioxide, otherwise known as gas exchange. Read more about what makes up the respiratory system and the process of inhalation to exhalation below.
The respiratory tract can be split into the upper and lower respiratory tract. The upper is described as the pathway where air enters the nose/mouth and the lower tract is the delivery of air to the lungs.
The upper tract consists of the nose, mouth, pharynx (connect nose/mouth to the oesophagus), larynx (contain voice box and entry to the lungs) and epiglottis (stop valve, closes when we swallow so food does not enter the lungs).
The lower tract consists of the other half of the respiratory system. This is made up of the trachea (windpipe), bronchi (connect the windpipe to lungs) and lungs.
All of this works in concert to inhale oxygen which nourishes the body and exhale carbon dioxide to maintain the desirable balance.
The respiratory system has many functions, as mentioned the most obvious is gas exchange or respiration. Inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide.
What you may not know is its role in body temperature regulation, blood pH regulation and also defending us from potentially harmful bacteria (nose hairs, mucous that lines the lungs and nose traps dust, pollen and dirt).
For example, let's say a harmful airborne bacteria was inhaled. The mucous in the mouth hopefully trap this foreign particle, then it will either be swallowed and digested by stomach acid or coughed back up, or unfortunately at times bypass these defence mechanisms and infect the body.
However, the primary function of the upper respiratory tract is to inhale air from the external environment. This air is filtered and warmed before it reaches the more sensitive cells of the lower respiratory tract or the lungs where gas exchange actually occurs between the cells in the lungs and local blood vessels.
The European Lung Foundation has provided exercise guidelines below to maintain good lung health.
In addition, the hyperlink brings you to the source where you can read further if interested.
"At the start of your work-out, prepare yourself with gentle activities involving the muscles you will be using during your exercise (warm-up)
Improve your flexibility with stretching exercises
Gradually improve your ability to exercise for longer periods (build up stamina)
Increase activity at your own pace, and do not be afraid to get modestly out of breath (i.e. 4–5 on a scale of 0–10)
Improve your muscle strength (i.e. by lifting weights)
At the end of your work-out, slow down your activities and stretch the muscles you have used and allow your breathing to return to normal (cool down)
Remember: Exercise can bring many benefits and be enjoyable, even with a long term health problem. Even if a task seems difficult at first, if you tackle one thing at a time at your own pace, you will quickly notice an improvement in your symptoms."
Without a doubt, there is sufficient evidence to conclude smoking causes cancer, cardiovascular diseases and other respiratory diseases. In addition to this, it is associated with a 10-year reduction in life expectancy (Source: NCBI). Avoid all and any types of smoking.
Nutrition is a modifiable lifestyle factor that can help maintain weight and good overall health (Source: NCBI). Manage nutrition intake and focus on the constituents of a healthy and balanced diet.
The general principles of a healthy, balanced diet are diets rich in omega-3, vitamins and minerals, fibre and a large variety of plant food. Limiting stressors such as excessive alcohol intake, smoking, being overweight or obese, poor sleep quantity and quality and personal and professional stress can all benefit respiratory health.
If there is one takeaway: consume plenty of fruit & vegetables. Supplementation may be beneficial to fill the dietary gaps as discussed in "additional considerations" below.
While consumption of most nutrients through natural or fortified foods is preferred, some nutrients may occasionally need supplementation. Especially for restrictive diets or those that lack variety.
As a general rule try to consume 5-7 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Importantly, if you do not consume animal products you should consult your healthcare professional to discuss and consider a vitamin B12 supplement. The main issue with vitamin B12 is everything is fine until it's not. Meaning its a silent threat to our health, we have stores in the liver that can last 1-2 years and even longer in some instances. Hence, get ahead and check your status, the first sign of vitamin B12 deficiency can, unfortunately, have already caused irreversible damage. Vitamin D is another at risk-nutrient and should be supplemented from October-March in countries of northern latitude (north of the equator, Ireland, UK, Denmark, etc.) (Source: NCBI, MDPI).
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