Are Your Lungs Shrinking?
When it comes to physical health, there are few things more important than “lung power.” Great martial artists like Bruce Lee knew physical strength and robust health depend on your lungs.
The strong men of my father’s era knew it too. Part of what gives you the capacity to live robustly is getting enough oxygen. But without your awareness, you are probably losing lung capacity. Your lungs tend to shrink with age.
Sooner or later, you get tired more quickly, you’re less virile, you get colds and the flu more often, and it takes longer to recover from illness.
I’ve proven that it doesn’t have to be that way. You can stop this loss of vitality by taking a few simple steps to build your lungs back.
By the time you reached 20, you stopped growing lung tissue and your lung capacity stabilized. This lasted for about 10 years. Then, around 30, your lungs started to decline. The alveoli that deliver oxygen to your blood began to die off. Slowly, most folks limit their daily activities so their lungs can keep up.
Unless you prevent it, you lose 20 percent of your vital lung capacity by about age 35. By 50, you’ve lost 40 percent of your breathing capacity and the decline continues for life.
If you get the flu at age 35 or 40, you can shrug it off. That’s because you have the extra lung capacity you need to sustain yourself—even if the flu or pneumonia takes some of your lung volume out of commission with fluid.
But if you’re 65 or 70 and you get a bout of flu or pneumonia, you won’t have the reserve lung capacity to sustain you. That is why the death rate is so much higher for seniors who contract these respiratory diseases. They simply don’t have the lung capacity to get them over the hump.
What’s more, bigger lungs supply your working body with more oxygen. They also restore cell health by removing cell-eroding carbon dioxide. When there’s plenty of oxygen circulating around the body, your muscles can afford to use it to build reserve sources of energy for times of stress or exertion. But as your lung capacity decreases, your normal everyday activity takes up more of it, leaving you with very little reserve.
And as your lung capacity diminishes, you’re more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke that permanently affects the rest of your life. Lack of oxygen reserves is a risk factor in heart attacks.
Fortunately, you can implement a simple exercise program that will improve your lung capacity and minimize the consequences of losing lung volume. If you focus on improving your lungs’ elasticity, improving posture and improving the function of your diaphragm, the rest will take care of itself.
The best way to do it is simple: High intensity, short-interval workouts. My PACE® program is the only program I’ve ever encountered that is specifically designed to best accomplish this most important goal. In fact, the technique we use is so revolutionary, the U.S. Patent Office awarded it a service mark.
And you can make this challenging exercise program more effective with a diet rich in protein. You need protein to build organ tissue. It will also increase your need for certain vitamins. Consider adding the following vitamins for even faster results:
- Beta-carotene (25,000 international units) shields your lungs from air pollution and smoke, keeping the small air sacs in your lungs cleaner and healthier.
- Selenium (50-200 micrograms) helps keep your lungs elastic.
- Vitamin A (5,000 international units) turns into carotenes, which your body needs for lung function.
- Vitamin C (1,200 milligrams) helps people with asthma breathe easier and is a great water-soluble antioxidant.
- Vitamin E (600 international units) preserves oil-soluble nutrients needed for building new cells, fights cellular aging and protects your lungs from oxidative damage.2
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD
- Aging Changes In the Lungs. Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Health Encyclopedia (www.enh.org), accessed 5/11/05
- Prevention’s Healing with Vitamins. Rodale Books: Emmaus, PA, 1996.