An important predictor of health and longevity
Lung Function—an important predictor of health and longevity
What is the most accurate predictor of lifespan? It turns out that the biggest clue to longevity is your lung function.
Lung capacity is defined as the maximum amount of air the lungs can hold, while lung function involves the speed with which you can inhale and exhale. Lung function also involves how efficiently your lungs oxygenate the blood, while at the same time removing carbon dioxide.
Both lung function and lung capacity can be measured by a spirometry test. Also known as a pulmonary function test, spirometry measures the lungs’ forced vital capacity (FVC), which involves lung size and exhalation capability, and the FEV1 (forced expiratory volume) which measures how much air can be exhaled in one second.
When lung capacity and function are limited, less oxygen enters the bloodstream, cells and tissues resulting in shortness of breath, reduced endurance and decreased cardiorespiratory fitness.
Because limited lung function causes the heart to work harder, this can lead over time to heart failure and heart attacks. Other adverse effects include impaired metabolic and digestive functions, problems with cognition and memory, increased inflammation and heightened susceptibility to respiratory infections.
Study: Poor lung capacity can double your risk of premature death
In a 29-year study published in Chest, the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Chest Physicians, researchers assessed the pulmonary function of 1,194 adults ranging in age from 20 to 89. After adjusting for factors such as age, body mass, blood pressure, education and smoking, the team found that lung capacity was strongly related to all-cause mortality in both men and women.
Men with the poorest lung capacity were a shocking 2.24 times more likely to die from any cause than those with the highest capacity, while women were 1.81 times more likely to die. Concluding that lung capacity and volume is a “strong and independent predictor of both all-cause and disease-specific mortality,” the researchers suggested that this could be used as an important tool for general health assessment.
By the way, this is not the only study linking lung capacity with lifespan. In an earlier investigation known as the Framingham study, researchers found that people with generous lung volume were healthier and lived longer than those with limited lung capacity.
Warning: Too many people experience poor lung health as early as age 30
As with so many other body functions, lung capacity declines with age. Lung tissue becomes less flexible, the diaphragm muscle becomes weaker, and the rib cage may contract, leaving less room for lungs to expand.
In fact, Dr. Adrian Draper, a respiratory consultant at Spire St. Anthony Hospital, reports that lung capacity at age 60 may be only two thirds of what it was at age 30. In addition, diseases such as COPD, asthma and pulmonary fibrosis (scarring) take a toll on lung capacity.
Conventionally speaking, lung function can’t be improved. However, the Lung Health Institute reports that lung capacity – the amount of air available to be used – can be. Increasing lung capacity can provide a wealth of health benefits, including better immune defense against disease, accelerated wound healing, sharpened focus and concentration, improved digestion and more efficient elimination of waste.
Simple lifestyle choices can improve lung capacity
If you still smoke, quitting is the single most important thing you can do to increase lung capacity. If you have tried to quit without success, don’t give up.
As excess fat can push on the chest and interfere with lung function, it can be helpful to shed pounds if you are overweight or obese. In addition, you can support healthy lung capacity by avoiding allergens, environmental toxins, secondhand smoke and dust. Bypass chemical air fresheners in favor of scenting your home with essential oils, and substitute organic cleaning products for harsh cleaners.
Breathing exercises and techniques including coordinated breathing, deep breathing and diaphragmatic breathing can also help restore lung capacity.
Vitamin D which is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune system-boosting can be a boon to pulmonary function. Studies reveal that people with COPD who accompany standard rehabilitation measures with increased vitamin D intake show improvement in their ability to exercise.
Regular physical exercise can be highly beneficial for improving lung capacity. Experts recommend interspersing low-intensity activities with high-intensity exercise for maximum benefit. However, before beginning any exercise routine, consult your integrative doctor to work out a program that is safe and effective for you.
Excerpts from www.naturalhealth365.com/lung-function-predicting-longevity-3550.html
Breathing Exercises for Lung Ailments
While there are many different types of breathing exercises, below are a few that may be useful for people with chronic lung diseases and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Pursed Lips Breathing
The pursed lips breathing exercise can be used to address shortness of breath by reducing how hard someone must work to breathe. It promotes relaxation. In addition, pursed lips breathing helps people learn how to control their breathing and can aid in the release of air trapped within the lungs. Pursed lips breathing can be especially useful during strenuous activities.
Relax your neck and shoulders.
Breathe in slowly through your nostrils while you count to two (keeping your mouth closed).
Pucker your lips.
Breathe out slowly and steadily through your mouth while you count to four.
You don’t have to take a deep breath to do pursed lips breathing. The key is to focus on breathing in and out slowly while you count. Pursed lips breathing can be practiced four to five times daily.
Episodes of shortness of breath can cause anxiety and make you hold your breath. The coordinated breathing exercise helps to prevent you from holding your breath. Coordinated breathing can help during exercise or when you feel anxious.
- Inhale through your nose. (If you’re exercising, inhale through your nose before starting an exercise).
- Purse your lips.
- Exhale through pursed lips during the most challenging part of the exercise.
- Repeat as needed.
When air becomes trapped in the lungs, you may feel increased shortness of breath. While it may seem strange, deep breathing exercises can help prevent air from getting trapped in your lungs. Deep breathing helps you breathe in more fresh air.
- With your elbows back slightly, sit or stand in a comfortable position.
- Slowly take a deep breath in.
- Hold your breath as you count to ten.
- Exhale slowly until you feel that you have released as much air as possible.
Deep breathing can be performed along with other breathing exercises and up to three to four times a day.
Belly Breathing or Diaphragmatic Breathing
Of the muscles used for normal breathing, the diaphragm is one of the most important. Belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing helps retrain the diaphragm to work better, so you can breathe more efficiently. Lie on your back with your knees bent or resting on a pillow.
- Place one hand on your upper chest and the other hand on your belly.
- Inhale slowly through your nose.
- As you inhale, focus on feeling the hand on your belly rise and the hand on your chest remaining as still as possible.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth like you would in pursed lips breathing.
- As you exhale, focus on feeling the hand on your belly go down first.
- Repeat as you are able.
Ask your doctor or respiratory therapist to show you how to best perform this exercise and how often you should practice it.
Prevention is the best medicine, and working to keep your lungs healthy is much more efficient than trying to repair them after something goes wrong.
Excerpts from https://lunginstitute.com/blog/best-breathing-exercises-for-copd/