Breathe Easy America

Learning more about lung health can be like a breath of fresh air. So sit back, inhale deeply and take our quiz. (See answers at bottom.)
1. Which two foods contain vitamins that may improve lung health and could be used to treat the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)?
a) beans and rice
b) carrots and liver
c) oranges and salmon

2. Carrying too much fat on this part of the body could affect your breathing:
a) thighs
b) upper arms
c) waist

3. Around what age are your lungs typically at their best?
a) 15
b) 20
c) 30

4. You’ll find it easier to breathe if you can control your:
a) temper
b) finances
c) time spent on the phone

5. Dust mite allergies cause sneezing and watery eyes, and in severe cases can lead to asthma. The best way to wash dust mites out of fabrics and clothing is to use:
a) more laundry soap
b) hotter water
c) fabric softener

6. Most people know that smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. What’s No. 2?
a) air pollution
b) radon
c) sunspots

1. Answer: C. Studies suggest that eating one serving per week of vitamin C-rich foods such as oranges can help lower risk of lung disease. Research also suggests that people with higher levels of vitamin D have better lung function. Good sources of vitamin D include fatty fish like salmon as well as brief daily sun exposure. 

2. Answer: C. If your waist measures more than 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men, your lung function could be compromised by as much as 10 percent. The larger your belly swells, the more likely you’ll have trouble breathing, because the excess fat makes it harder for your diaphragm and chest wall to expand. Whittle off a few inches with healthy meals and exercise and you’ll breathe the difference. 

3. Answer: B. Lung performance peaks just after the teen years. Starting at age 35, the number of alveoli and lung capillaries (two important lung components that help deliver oxygen to the body) gradually decrease. You can’t increase your lung capacity or prevent your lungs from aging, but regular exercise such as walking, running or swimming for a half-hour several times a week can help your heart and muscles use oxygen efficiently. 

4. Answer: A. Even a brief argument can cause your body to tense and your airways to contract. Research suggests a link between feelings of frustration and a decline in lung function that worsens the longer you stay mad. For your peace of mind and well-being, take a deep breath and let the grudges go.

5. Answer: B. Dust mites are tiny insects that settle into warm environments like bedding and carpeting and are a leading cause of indoor allergies. Just about every home has them, but they can be kept at bay. Running bedding, towels and other fabrics through a hot water wash cycle of at least 140 degrees once a week kills all the dust mites they contain (while a warm water wash kills only 6.5 percent). Hot water washing also helps to rinse away household allergens such as pet dander and pollen. 

6. Answer: B. Radon, a natural gas produced when uranium deposits in the soil decompose, is the second leading cause of lung cancer and the biggest cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers. Toxic, odorless radon gas can make its way into homes through cracks and openings in their foundations-it can even leach into the water.

By Leslie Gilbert Elman