The ongoing surge in Covid-19 cases has once again put the spotlight on lung health. Being a respiratory disease, Covid-19 can have serious effects on people who already have lung conditions — something which has been seen in the past, amid the pandemic. As such, this World Health Day — observed every year on April 7 — experts highlight the need to keep the lungs healthy, while elucidating the important role this organ plays in healthy living.

What do lungs do?

Lungs are vital organs responsible for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, which is essential for sustaining life. “They help extract oxygen from the air we breathe and transfer it into the bloodstream, and remove carbon dioxide from the bloodstream and release it into the air we exhale,” said Dr Jugendra Singh, senior consultant, respiratory medicine, Medanta Lucknow.

Made up of “millions of tiny air sacs called alveoli” that are responsible for exchanging gases between the bloodstream and the air we breathe, lungs also play a crucial role in regulating the body’s pH balance and immune defense by producing mucus and clearing foreign particles and toxins from the respiratory tract, Dr Singh told

Connection between Covid-19 and the lungs

Covid-19 is a respiratory illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which primarily affects the lungs. “The virus enters the body through the nose and mouth and then travels down to the lungs, where it can cause inflammation, damage the alveoli, and impair oxygen exchange. In severe cases, Covid-19 can also lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a life-threatening condition that requires mechanical ventilation,” Dr Singh noted.

respiratory disease, respiratory problems, lung problems, lung health, respiratory health, skin signs and respiratory health, skin colour changes and respiratory diseases, skin and lung health, indian express news A respiratory disease can affect the lungs, respiratory tract, trachea, nerves and muscles that aid in normal breathing. (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)

What can help?

Stressing on the role of vaccinations and covid-appropriate behaviour, Dr Ambarish Joshi, senior consultant – Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine, Primus Super Speciality Hospital stressed on the need to make certain lifestyle changes to keep the lungs healthy.

Give up smoking: Smoking harms your lungs and raises your chance of developing respiratory diseases. One of the greatest things you can do for your lung health, especially during the pandemic, is to stop smoking.

Exercise: Engaging in regular exercise can help strengthen lung capacity and lower the chance of respiratory illnesses. You can attempt aerobic activities, which are especially good for your lungs, like brisk walking, running, or cycling.

Maintain good hygiene: Keeping your hands clean, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and avoiding direct contact with sick people can all help stop the spread of respiratory illnesses like Covid-19.

Get enough sleep: Sleep is important for general health, which includes lung health. To support your immune system and lower your chance of respiratory illnesses, aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

Avoid air pollution: Air pollution raises your chance of respiratory illnesses and can harm your lungs. Try to limit your exposure if you live somewhere with high levels of air pollution by remaining inside or using a mask when you’re outside.

Manage stress: Stress can harm your lungs and raise your chance of developing respiratory diseases. Your lung health can be supported by finding ways to handle stress, such as through the practice of relaxation methods like yoga or meditation, Dr Joshi said.

Eat a healthful diet: Nutrients, especially good for your lungs are blueberries, leafy vegetables, fish, nuts, and seeds, said Dr Joshi.

A balanced diet comprising fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help. Citrus fruits and leafy greens contain vitamin C, which can strengthen the immune system and help to reduce inflammation, Dr Joshi said.

“Fatty fish, eggs, and fortified dairy products all contain vitamin D, which can promote immune system health and lower the chance of respiratory infections. Salmon and hazelnuts are two foods high in omega-3 fatty acids that may also help lessen lung inflammation. Additionally, because they can worsen inflammation and affect lung function, processed foods, sugary beverages, and excessive alcohol intake should be avoided,” added Dr Joshi.

spices Ensure you make these spices a part of your daily diet (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Dr Babina NM, chief medical officer, Jindal Naturecure Institute, Bangalore also shared common kitchen ingredients that should be part of one’s diet.

Pepper: One of the highest sources of vitamin C, this nutrient is water-soluble and acts as a powerful antioxidant in your body. Vitamin C improves lung health and reduces inflammation.

Turmeric: This popular Indian spice is frequently used to improve overall health. Turmeric is a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin, turmeric’s main active ingredient, is very beneficial for lung function.

Ginger: This food should be included in everyone’s diet. Ginger has been shown to be very effective in reducing lung damage and protecting them from severe damage caused by hyperoxia and inflammation.

Green leafy vegetables: Leafy vegetables, such as carrots, beetroot, spinach, and pumpkin, are high in carotenoids, iron, potassium, calcium, and vitamins. These nutrients have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can aid in reducing lung inflammation and promoting overall health.

Garlic: Although it is commonly used in Indian households, garlic is an excellent source of anti-inflammatory compounds that can assist your lungs in fighting problems.

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