You should never take that breath of fresh air for granted, writes Dr Jaspal Singh.
Chronic lung and respiratory diseases affect 31 per cent of Australians.
These include milder conditions like hay fever and chronic sinusitis which are often triggered by pollen, dust mites and mould.
But they also encompass more challenging afflictions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The latter two both restrict the airways making it difficult for sufferers to breathe.
COPD rarely strikes before middle age and is usually attributed to smoking.
People with the disease will continue to lose lung function despite the best medications available.
Rarer conditions like sleep apnoea, cystic fibrosis and silicosis also fall under the umbrella of respiratory diseases.
It’s important to take good care of your respiratory system because it is easily damaged and often irreparable.
Practice good maintenance with regular check-ups at your GP and by being aware and vigilant of any potential dangers that threaten its optimum performance.
Here’s how to keep your respiratory system in peak condition and maintain your quality of life.
Avoid smoking and smoke
Smoking causes more than 20,000 deaths in Australia annually and research suggests two in three smokers will die from a disease attributed directly to their smoking.
Cancer, COPD and emphysema lead the range of nasties caused by smoking.
Your lung function and overall health improves almost as soon as you quit so start today!
Avoid passive smoking
Passive or secondhand smoking is little better for you than if you were holding the cigarette.
Remove yourself from the path of any smoke or noxious fumes.
Maintain a healthy environment
Indoor air quality
Enjoy the fresh air if it’s there! Open up your doors and windows to ensure proper ventilation of your environment.
Avoid environmental pollutants
Be aware of conditions outdoors and avoid exposure to air pollutants such as dust, pollens, mould, bushfire smoke and industrial chemicals.
Consider using an air purifier if you are particularly sensitive to allergens or have any pre-existing respiratory conditions.
Regular exercise is like oil for your respiratory system.
It’s the ideal tonic for maintaining and improving lung function.
Brisk walking, jogging and swimming not only strengthen your respiratory muscles but will enhance your lung capacity.
It will also help you maintain a healthy weight which is critical for respiratory health.
Eat a balanced diet
A diet rich in vegetables and fruit provides essential vitamins and antioxidants that support lung health.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in most fish, chia seeds, walnuts, spinach and Brussels sprouts help reduce inflammation in the airways.
Your respiratory system needs to be watered so don’t become dehydrated.
Water keeps the mucous membranes in your respiratory tract moist allowing you to clear your airways and reduce the risk of infections.
Practice good hygiene
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
That means cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, either with a tissue, handkerchief or your elbow if necessary.
Dispose of tissues thoughtfully and wash your hands afterwards to prevent the transmission of germs.
Stay up to date with your annual flu shot.
It’s your best shot at dodging a bout of a really nasty winter lurgy which could leave you bedridden for two weeks and weaken your respiratory system.
Avoid occupational hazards
Don’t put yourself in harm’s way at work.
If your job exposes you to respiratory hazards such as dust, chemicals or fumes which exacerbate your condition, it might be time to talk to your boss about a different role or to consider finding another job.
Always use appropriate protective equipment and follow safety protocols.
Take preventative action
If you suffer with allergies, take steps to improve your environment.
Consider an air filter, allergen-proof covers for pillows and mattresses and change your sheets more regularly, particularly in the summer months when you sweat more.
If you have asthma, COPD or any other chronic respiratory condition, follow your healthcare plan diligently and be aware of any warning signs that may indicate a deterioration of your condition.
About Dr Jaspal Singh
Dr Jaspal Singh recently made the move from the UK to AHA Clinics at Seaford, searching for a better career, lifestyle and opportunities for his young family.
He now finds he has more time to treat his patients during each and every appointment.
And the move has also given him more time to spend with his wife and children.
Dr Singh has a particular interest in respiratory health, chronic disease management, mental health and paediatric care.