HEALTH

How Much Do You Know About Your Lung Health?

Does drinking water keep your lungs healthy? Are e-cigarettes harmless? Take this quiz to see if you know the right facts about the health of your respiratory system.

By SHREYA MAJI

November of every year is observed as the Lung Cancer Awareness Month globally, an initiative started by the Lung Cancer Alliance, USA. It aims to promote healthy, lung-protective habits among the masses and raise awareness about lung cancer and its treatment. Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. But with informed knowledge and the right action, you can protect yourself and your loved ones. Take this short quiz to find out if you know these facts about your lungs and your respiratory system health.

1. It is normal to experience shortness of breath as you age

Answer: False. Your lungs mature by the age of 25, and after 35, it is normal for your lung capacity to gradually decline. But according to the American Lung Association, experiencing sudden difficulties in breathing or shortness of breath usually indicates some underlying problem, and is not the natural process of ageing.

2. Only young babies and aged people are vulnerable to pneumonia.

Answer: False. Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi that fills the air sacs in the lungs with fluid, which causes fever, cough, breathing issues, loss of appetite and intense fatigue. Children younger than 2 and people older than 65 are at the highest risk of contracting the infection, but it can affect people of all ages. Smoking puts you at greater risk for this disease.

3. Dehydration can cause breathing problems.

Answer: True. Dehydration can greatly affect all the systems of your body, including the respiratory system. Water helps to thin the mucus lining your airways and lungs. Dehydration will cause it to become thick and sticky, making you more prone to allergies and respiratory issues. A study published in 2010 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition also shows that when you are severely dehydrated, the linings of your sinuses can become dry, making it harder for you to breathe.

4. Lung cancer only affects those who smoke.

Answer: False. 12 percent of all people diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked in their life, says a 2020 study conducted by the American Cancer Society, published in JAMA Oncology. Secondhand smoke, outdoor air pollution, and a radioactive substance called radon are all possible risk factors for lung cancer. To maintain lung health, keep your home properly ventilated, exercise regularly, and see a doctor well in time to tackle any infections quickly.

5. E-cigarettes can also harm your lungs.

Answer: True. Used in recent years as an aid to quit smoking tobacco, e-cigarettes can also be harmful for your lungs. While smoking e-cigarettes (also known as vaping) exposes you to slightly less number of toxic chemicals than regular cigarettes, John Hopkins Medicine reports that it can be just as harmful. Research published in January 2020 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine links it to chronic lung disease, asthma, and higher risk of cardiovascular diseases.

6. Antioxidant supplements can make lung cancer worse.

Answer: True. Antioxidants are generally believed to be helpful for disease prevention and treatment. But a 2019 study by the New York University School of Medicine found that taking antioxidant supplements can actually cause cancerous cells in lungs to metastasize. Published in Volume 178 of Cell, a study from Karolinska Institute in Stockholm confirms how NAC (N-acetylcysteine) and Vitamin E supplements, when taken long term, can help lung cancer spread to tissues of other organs.

7. It is too late to quit smoking if you have smoked for many years.

Answer: False. It is never too late to reap the benefits from quitting smoking. The American Cancer Society reports that irrespective of the age you quit at or the duration of time you have smoked for, in as little as 2 weeks to 3 months after you stop smoking, the carbon monoxide levels in your blood go down, your blood circulation improves, and your lung function increases. Besides reducing the risk of lung cancer, quitting smoking can significantly lower the risk of chronic lung disease, heart attack and stroke.

8. Household cleaning products can be harmful for the lungs

Answer: True. A 2018 study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine shows that regular exposure to certain house cleaning items can increase your chances of getting lung disease by a third. These harmful substances include bleach, disinfectants, dry cleaning chemicals, floor polish and aerosol sprays.

9. Ginseng is a good supplement for lung health.

Answer: False. Ginseng, a herbal supplement used for centuries in Chinese medicine, is said to have certain health benefits like the improvement of brain function, boosting the immune system, and having antioxidant properties. Some studies tout its benefits for treating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but these studies are too small to give definitive conclusions. Moreover, ginseng can interfere with medications like blood thinners, diuretics and some antidepressants.

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