Keeping your lungs in tip-top shape is more important now than ever. Besides supplying every cell of your body with energizing oxygen, they also filter out airborne toxins. And when you have healthy lungs, viruses like COVID-19 have a harder time taking up residence. Luckily, keeping your lungs strong is easy, with these simple, science-backed tips from doctors and researchers.
Crunch an apple.
Apple skins contain compounds (called flavonoids) that reduce damaging airway inflammation and strengthen the tissues that line your lungs, says immunologist Joanna Makowska, M.D. No wonder Finnish researchers say eating one large apple a day boosts resistance to pneumonia, bronchitis, and chronic coughs by 32 percent. Plus, it can make breathing during exertion feel three times easier.
Switch pain relievers.
Acetaminophen can speed aging of delicate lung tissues, increasing the risk of breathing troubles like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) by 40 percent if you use it more than six times a month, Cornell University researchers say. The good news: In a British study, aspirin dampened pain just as effectively, without lung troubles.
Cut out cigarettes.
Quitting smoking cuts the risk of pneumonia, COPD, and serious virus complications by 60 percent, CDC researchers say. And using a free app, like Smoke Free or QuitGuide, can double your odds of success. That’s because these apps track mood changes and smoking triggers, then give you skills to sail past them with ease.
Breathe through your nose.
For healthy lungs, breathe through your nose, not your mouth! According to British researchers, your sinuses release a compound (nitric oxide) that slows the growth of viruses and bacteria in your lungs. It also opens airways, improving oxygen intake by 20 percent — often from the first breath!
Soak up the sunshine.
Vitamin D-3 helps immune cells in our airways destroy viruses, says Michael Holick, M.D. Keep levels high by basking in 20 minutes of sun, or taking 3,000 IU of vitamin D-3 daily, and Harvard researchers say you could cut risk of lung diseases by 70 percent. Note: Check with a doctor before supplementing.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.