How to keep lungs healthy? – Advice from a leading lung disease expert
Lung health and heart health are tightly linked. One organ – lungs – absorb all blood that the heart pumps out – equal to entire body blood vessels! Lung health advice from a top expert in pulmonary hypertension and heart failure:
– Lungs are the only human organ that receives the entire volume of blood that the heart pumps out with every heartbeat, with every ejection. So it’s a very important question. How to keep lungs healthy? Is there such a thing as a “lung training protocol” to optimize lung function? And obviously not smoking is an important part, but if we could go beyond that, because there’s a lot of people who don’t smoke and are interested in lung health. – Well, lung health is connected with cardiovascular health and total body health. I think that one of the unique features of the lung is that it does take the entire cardiac output, whereas the left heart has the opportunity to pump out to the entire body. So when we think about the complexity of the lung circulation – that lung has to accommodate all that blood supply. And if you think about the transition from rest to exercise. At rest we are pumping about 4,5 liters per minute and so the lung vessels just have to accommodate that. Now you start to do exercise, where, if you’re a strong athlete, you may increase that cardiac output to 15 to 20 liters per minute. So now all those vessels in the lung have to open up and accommodate more. So the lung actually has a huge reserve of vessels that it can recruit and open and accommodate without any trouble. That increased flow and, in fact, in the normal person what we’ll see is the pulmonary vascular resistance will actually go down dramatically as they start to exercise as that cardiac output goes up. But in the patient with lung disease, where those vessels are not able to accommodate all that flow – that’s where we run into trouble, especially with right heart function. So nonetheless, even in patients with lung disease, exercise is a huge bonus to the lung. The more you exercise – one, you get better cardiac fitness, but you also get better lung fitness. The lung learns how to adapt to that and can recruit those blood vessels better as you train. And that also brings up the whole issue of perfusion to the muscles – in that the more you exercise, the better the perfusion, and especially at the micro circulatory level. And the more mitochondria you have, so more energy production. So it all starts to match itself and accommodate and adapt to whatever the defect is. So we really promote exercise for all of our patients. – Is there any particular strategy – apart from exercise – the lifestyle and perhaps dietary or perhaps even chemopreventive strategy for lung disease prevention? Obviously, the environment is very important… I think there’s only so much we can do with environment. But certainly staying away from smoking, as you mentioned, staying away from things that are not healthy in the air. But again, it’s hard to control a lot of that. But I think just a balanced nutritional approach to lifestyle is always good. There are all different kinds of diets people pick up, but I think, so long as it’s well balanced and not excessive, then it’s good. And then from an exercise standpoint, a combination of aerobic conditioning along with some simple strength training really makes people feel a whole lot better and able to do a lot more.