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5 Things You Can Do Right Now To Prevent Cold and Flu

Smart ways to sick-proof your lungs.

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As cold and flu season revs up, it’s more important than ever to keep your lungs healthy so they can stop viral invaders from taking up residence. In more serious cases, the National Institutes of Health warns that people with chronic lung diseases are at a greater risk for COVID-19 symptoms including pneumonia and acute respiratory failure. Fortunately, keeping your lungs in top shape is easier than you think. Here’s how to prevent cold and flu symptoms in the months ahead.

Enjoy candied apples.

Whether baked into pie or diced over oatmeal, apples pack a powerful lung-protecting punch. Eating five or more of the fruit weekly improves lung function over time, scientists based out of the UK say. Apple’s flavonoids reduce inflammation and strengthen lung tissue, says immunologist Joanna Makowska, MD.

Give thanks.

Attending any type of religious service weekly (in-person or via Zoom) reduces the urge to smoke and decreases mortality risk, Harvard scientists say. “Part of the benefit seems to be that attending religious services increases social support, discourages smoking, decreases depression, and helps people develop a more optimistic or hopeful outlook on life,” senior author Tyler VanderWeele, PhD, said in a statement.

Turn on the humidifier.

Yale research reveals that keeping indoor air humidity between 40 and 60 percent boosts activity of cilia, tiny hairlike structures that expel viruses from the lungs. Plus, it prevents COVID from hanging in the air longer than in dry conditions. No humidifier? Simmer a big pot of water on the stove instead.

Take a deep breath.

Inhaling through your nose drives nitric oxide (NO), an antiviral gas produced in the sinuses, into the lungs. That’s why NO researcher Louis Ignarro, PhD, advises regularly breathing this way. Also smart: humming for 20 seconds before inhaling. Scientists based out of Sweden say doing so creates vibrations that increase NO output 1,500 percent.

Channel Rachael Ray.

Research in BMC Pulmonary Medicine found adding 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil to your daily diet reduces your risk of breathing trouble by 30 percent. The type of vitamin E found in the oil protects against inflammation and preserves healthy lung function.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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