When my mother-in-law was in her 70’s, she had heart bypass surgery. Marie, a tough old bird, made it through the surgery with no problems. However, after the surgery, her lungs were too weak for her to breathe on her own. She had to depend on a respirator. For several months, until her final breaths of life, she remained on this respirator. Unable to breathe on her own, or talk to her loved ones.
She hated it.
It wasn’t a good way to die. And because I really loved the “old lady,” as we affectionately called her, I had hoped she would have been able to hang around here on earth a lot longer – at least until my daughter grew up and got to know her better.
I’d like to be able to keep breathing for a long time. Considering that we breathe somewhere between 17,000 and 23,000 times a day, I wouldn’t mind taking at least 228,125,000 more breaths, which would take me to around 85 years old. (Then again, can I afford to live that long? Won’t my social security checks run out long before then?)
Every day, I take my breathing, and my lungs, for granted; you probably do, too. But did you know that lung disease is the number 3 killer in our country, and over 35 million of us suffer from chronic lung diseases? Common respiratory diseases include asthma, COPD, lung cancer, bronchitis, pneumonia, and others.
Doing a little googling, I took some time to learn about our lungs.Our cells need oxygen, and our lungs, along with the rest of the respiratory system, provide it for them. We breathe in air, then breathe out carbon dioxide, a “waste gas.” This is called the “gas exchange.”The American Lung Association (ALA) describes the gas exchange and other lung functions.
The ALA also offers five ways to protect our lungs and respiratory system:
- Don’t smoke
- Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke and other pollutants, including chemicals from home cleaning products
- Avoid colds and other respiratory illnesses by taking steps to protect yourself
- Visit your doctor regularly for preventative care
- Do aerobic exercise and breathing exercises
The American Lung Association is a great resource:
- Do you have questions about lung conditions or want help to quit smoking? Check out the ALA helpline.
- Are you looking for an online support community?
- Do you want to be a #lifehero? ALA can help you get involved.
For further reading:
Learn how to help protect the air we breathe
Do you know someone with a chronic lung disease? The Your Lung Health website talks about how people with respiratory illnesses can “dance” their way to healthier lungs and lives.
©Vital Aging 4 Women 2017