What are the most important things that we can do for our health, integrated into our daily lives, in a relatively simple way? In our new series of articles, we invite experts from various fields at Semmelweis University to answer this question. In the first part of our series, Dr. Veronika Müller, Director of the university’s Department of Pulmonology, shares some advice on how to keep our lungs healthy.
1. Do breathing exercises three times a day!

Perhaps not everyone realizes that breathing is actually pumping and as such, can be improved through breathing exercises. For a healthy lung, it is worth doing breathing exercises for a short while three times a day, which will train and exercise the parts of the lungs and respiratory muscles that are missed when breathing at rest, and thus become attenuated in the long term. Respiratory exercises can be done by anyone, but they are particularly recommended for those who cannot work out for some reason,” says the Director at the Department of Pulmonology, who recommends doing 5 breathing exercises three times a day. 

2. Exercise in fresh air, or if that’s not possible, do it indoors!

Sport, especially outdoor sport, is essential for the health of the whole body. However, during exercise, forced breathing allows more air to pass through the body, so when exercising outdoors, for example when running, particular attention should be paid to the quality of the air you breathe. If the weather is unfavourable, if there is a particularly high level of airborne particles for instance, you should choose indoor sports or do them early in the morning and at least avoid main roads,” says the pulmonologist.

3. Avoid indoor or outdoor air pollution, and smoking!

The particles that enter the body through air pollution, depending on their size, reach the bottom of the bronchi, the air sacs and even the smallest ones enter the circulation. These invisible micro-particles, colloquially known as airborne dust, carry pathogens, harmful substances, pollen and other pollutants that cause disease, and since one moves at least 10,000 litres of air a day through the lungs as an adult human being, lead to a variety of health problems. It is therefore essential to breathe in the cleanest air possible to maintain lung health,” stresses the Director of the Department of Pulmonology. We also need to be aware that smoking is nothing but massive air pollution, a voluntary pollutant, the proven carcinogenicity of which was declared at a 2022 conference, she adds. Lung health is certainly being damaged by this habit, so if you would like to live your life with healthy lungs, quit,” warns Dr. Veronika Müller.

4. Watch out for early breathlessness during a strenuous activity or exercise! Mild asthma may be the cause

It can be a warning sign for lung health, especially in young people, if shortness of breath occurs even with minor exertion or if we have trouble breathing very early during exercise – these symptoms can also be caused by mild asthma, which is worth getting checked out in consultation with your GP, says Dr. Veronika Müller. Mild asthma is rare; intense sport and high levels of stress provoke breathlessness or coughing, which many people do not recognize, but rather identify as a cold or viral infection, but do not be alarmed by the diagnosis: it is good to know that the occasional use of inhalation drugs can help in such cases,” reassures the director.

5. Watch your sleep! Daytime fatigue – associated with obesity, high blood pressure, snoring – can be caused by sleep-related breathing problems. Read up and consult your GP!

Few people think about it, but the quality of sleep is also closely linked to lung health, explains Dr. Veronika Müller. Daytime fatigue can also be caused by sleep-related breathing disorders, sleep apnoea, especially if symptoms include significant obesity, high blood pressure and snoring. Sleep disordered breathing is a condition affecting 4-5 percent of people over 40-50 years of age, leading to unpleasant consequences in the long run. To avoid these, diagnosis is crucial, so the first thing to do when these symptoms appear is to get information, which the clinic also offers, and to consult your GP concerning sleep,” says the pulmonologist.

Anita Szepesi
Translation: Viktória Kiss
Photo: Attila Kovács – Semmelweis University