According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is one of the top threats to human health worldwide. In fact, the WHO attributes about 7 million deaths per year to the microscopic pollutants in the air— too small for us to see, but large enough to infiltrate our circulatory and respiratory systems and cause significant damage.
Both indoor and outdoor air pollution can be harmful. Fortunately, there are things we can do to reduce our exposure to each of these.
Minimizing Exposure to Indoor Air Pollution
If you’re doing any activity that can generate fumes or pollutants (such as painting, welding, sanding, paint stripping, or using a gas stove), make sure you’re doing it in a well-ventilated area— or even outside, if you can. To increase ventilation, you can open windows and doors and run a window or attic fan.
Don’t allow anyone to smoke indoors. Secondhand tobacco smoke is responsible for many serious health conditions, including lung cancer, sudden infant death syndrome, and severe asthma attacks. Opening a window will not make it any safer.
Reduce fireplace use when possible. Wood burning fireplaces generate much more pollution than gas fireplaces.
Minimizing Exposure to Outdoor Air Pollution
Get into the habit of checking the Air Quality Index (AQI) each day. You can easily view this from any weather app on your phone. On days when the AQI is high, you should avoid exercising or spending a lot of time outdoors.
You should also avoid exercising outdoors near any high-traffic areas, regardless of the AQI that day. Car emissions can increase the amount of pollutants in the air locally, and exercising makes it more likely that you’ll breathe the pollutants in.
Perhaps most importantly, you can reduce your personal risk for experiencing the health effects of air pollution by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and managing any chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, COPD, and heart disease. The Wellness & Stress Clinic is always here to help with this. To make an appointment, please call the clinic at (901) 306-5433. As always, stay healthy and stay safe!
This week is Respiratory Care Week, a week dedicated to promoting awareness of lung diseases and recognizing the hard work of respiratory therapists, nurses, and doctors to support lung health. When President Reagan announced the first Respiratory Care Week in 1982, over 17 million Americans were affected by chronic obstructive lung diseases. This number hasn’t gone down much in the past 4 decades, but that can change. Here are some ways you can take care of your lungs and contribute to lowering that number:
Stop (or don’t start) smoking. Cigarette smoke is a significant cause of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. COPD is the 4th leading cause of death in the United States, and in 8 out of 10 cases, it’s caused by exposure to cigarette smoke. The good news is that COPD is preventable, and by avoiding smoking, you’re significantly lowering your risk and protecting the people around you from secondhand smoke, which can cause many of the same diseases as first-hand smoke. Once you start smoking, the nicotine in cigarettes makes it hard to quit, but it’s far from impossible, especially with plenty of online resources and support from your healthcare provider, peers, and loved ones.
Exercise. On top of the already-numerous benefits of exercise for building muscle, losing fat, improving your mood, helping you sleep better, and keeping your heart healthy, getting enough physical activity (30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week) is important for your lung health, too. As you become more fit, your lungs become more efficient at oxygenating your blood and transporting it to the rest of your body. It’s equally important for people with lung disease to exercise, but you should consult with your healthcare provider to make a plan that works for you.
Minimize your exposure to both indoor and outdoor air pollution. Both of these can cause or exacerbate symptoms of respiratory diseases, including asthma, which 25 million Americans currently suffer from. To keep your home safe, keep it smoke-free and test for radon and carbon monoxide regularly. For outdoor air pollution, try to minimize your time outside on days when the Air Quality Index (AQI) is high—this is something you can easily check from your phone’s weather app or from watching the local weather forecast.
Wash your hands and wear a mask. As the weather gets colder and people spend more time indoors, respiratory diseases like the cold, flu, and COVID-19 can spread easily. Now, more than ever, it’s important to practice good hygiene and wash your hands to prevent infection. Keep your distance as much as you can, and when you can’t, be sure to mask up to protect not only yourself but those around you.
Taking steps to improve your own lung health is a wonderful way to celebrate Respiratory Care Week, and of course, if there are any respiratory care workers in your life, be sure to send a “thank you” their way! As always, stay safe and stay healthy!