AAMC: How to keep your lungs healthy

93 points

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has put lung health into the spotlight. Now more than ever, it’s important to keep your lungs in good shape to reduce your risk of developing severe illness.

Here are some things you can do to keep your lungs healthy.

Quitting these habits is challenging in the best of times. Add in the stress and boredom from the pandemic, and it’s even harder. But if you smoke or vape, it’s especially important to quit now. Smoking and vaping increases your risk of deadly infections, such as the flu, pneumonia and now, COVID-19. Studies show you could also be at greater risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19 if you smoke or vape.

We continue to see cases of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury, known as EVALI. The symptoms of EVALI, including low oxygen levels and inflammation of the lungs, can be similar to the symptoms of COVID-19. While the FDA has cracked down on the makers of the Juul e-cigarette for marketing to teenagers, now we’re seeing devices such as the Puff Bar. This is similar to the Juul, but because it’s disposable, manufacturers can get around the regulations.

But we are also seeing more people who want to quit. People are scared about getting COVID-19, so they are more invested in quitting smoking and vaping. And we’re offering more virtual programs than ever before. For local support, call Luminis Health Anne Arundel Medical Center’s Nicotine Dependence Program at 443-481-5366.

About eight years ago, we started yearly lung screenings for people who are at highest risk of developing lung cancer. Lung cancer is the most common and deadliest form of cancer – about one in four cancer deaths are from lung cancer. These screenings are low dose chest CT scans. We recommend screening if you’re between the ages of 55 and 80 and you smoke, or you quit within the last 15 years. If you’ve smoked at least 30 “pack years” – a pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years – you should come in for a screening. Don’t hesitate if you think you are at risk. Lung cancer can develop at any time.

Test for indoor pollutants

Radon is a natural gas that is found throughout the country – and it is thought to be responsible for 10 percent of lung cancers nationwide. When combined with tobacco smoke, it’s especially risky. Unfortunately, there is no way to smell or see radon. And it won’t make you feel sick. So the only way to know if radon is present in your home is through a radon test. If you have an older home, or you are concerned about the foundation of your home, we suggest getting it tested.

Maintain overall good health

There are no specific exercises you can do to make your lungs healthier. But we recommend making good lifestyle choices and maintaining a healthy body overall. That means eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep – and exercising. We want to encourage you to get outside, and enjoy sunshine and fresh air – while keeping your physical distance from others.

Also, stay up to date on your vaccinations, including the flu vaccine. These are an essential part of maintaining good lung health.

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Plan your weekend with this weekly Thursday email.

Our lungs do a lot for us. Let’s make sure we take good care of them, too.

Stephen Cattaneo, MD, is a thoracic surgeon and medical director of Thoracic Oncology at Luminis Health Anne Arundel Medical Center.

Adil Degani, MD, is a pulmonologist and sleep specialist with AAMG Pulmonary Specialists.

Joanne Ebner is manager of the Cancer Prevention Department and Nicotine Dependence Program at Luminis Health Anne Arundel Medical Center.

For local lung screening, contact Luminis Health Anne Arundel Medical Center’s Lung Screening Program at 443-481-5838.

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