October is Healthy Lung Month. This is celebrated to raise awareness on the various types of lung conditions that can occur in individuals, as well as to promote lung health and teach you the different ways in which you can make sure you have the healthiest lungs possible; because without healthy lungs, your ability to breathe can become quite limited.

One of the most common reasons why people have respiratory problems is allergies – and the spring isn’t the only time of year that allergies can occur. The fall can also be problematic for people, specifically due to common allergens such as ragweed, mugwort, nettle and sorrel which are prevalent during this time of year. Mold is another problematic allergen that tends to be more prevalent during the fall and winter months due to the change in temperature as well as more moisture. Along with breathing problems, these pollens can produce other symptoms including nasal congestion or runny nose, sneezing, chronic sinusitis, eye irritation, sore throat, cough, and even sleep disturbances. If you are prone to developing allergies during the fall, you should speak with your family physician. In many cases, something like an over-the-counter antihistamine, such as Benadryl or Reactine, can significantly reduce the symptoms associated to these aforementioned allergens. However, if your symptoms persist or are severe then you may need to be referred to an allergist.

Cigarette smoke is another major problem for the lungs. If you have asthma, tobacco use can also trigger symptoms such as coughing, as well as cause difficulty breathing. Smoking can also lead to conditions like emphysema and COPD (also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.) But perhaps the most common condition associated with cigarette smoke is lung cancer. Lung cancer is linked to as many as 90% of all cases, therefore making it one of the leading causes of death. Tobacco contains as many as 7,000 chemicals, many of them considered toxic and poisonous, so you can only imagine what they would do to the lungs in someone who is a smoker. The only way to prevent lung cancer is to either not smoke at all, or quit smoking; although if you’ve smoked at any time in your life then the risk of lung cancer remains. In addition to causing lung cancer, cigarette smoke can also cause cancer of the mouth and throat, larynx, esophagus, trachea, stomach, liver, pancreas, colon, rectum, bladder, cervix, and can even cause a type of leukemia known as acute myeloid leukemia. Dr. Ghahary has put together an informative and important article that addresses smoking cessation, including helpful tips, which you can read here. If you break the smoking habit, you’ll be doing wonders for your overall health, not to mention increasing your quality of life.

Exercise can also improve your lung health. This is because your lungs normally only work at half capacity. However, when you exercise, they work at full capacity. Therefore, exercising not only makes sure your lungs work better, but also improves your heart health as well. Great exercises for the lungs include things like walking or jogging, or even using the treadmill at a gym. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it’s an exercise that you can commit to doing regularly, as your whole body will reap some great benefits.

Food can also play a role in lung health. Some of the best foods you can eat for your lungs include those that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, as well as fruits like apples and berries, and nuts such as walnuts. You can find plenty of tips from Dr. Ghahary on healthy eating by clicking here.

In cases where lung conditions are severe, you may need to be referred to a pulmonologist. If you are experiencing shortness of breath, you should always make sure to address it with your family physician. If that shortness of breath becomes severe, the best thing to do is to go to your nearest emergency room. Shortness of breath is often associated with things like heart attacks or blood clots, and could be a matter of life or death, so it’s important to get the issue checked out sooner than later.