Ever since pulmonologist Anand S. Iyer has been working in an intensive care unit – and especially since he treated people with severe COVID-19, put on ventilators, performed end-of-life care and observed the long-term effects on their lungs in his clinic – “I’ve got a whole gained a new respect for lung health, ”he says.
When he started his medical training, he knew that strong lungs are essential to good health. And now COVID-19 is making everyone wonder how to get and keep healthy lungs that way. The doctor, who is currently also an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, told us he is doing this to keep his lungs healthy.
) HIIT your workout
I knew I had to change my lifestyle a few years ago when I ran to a code blue emergency and got out of breath. That was my guide to shedding the 20 pounds I gained in medical school and to work on improving my lung and cardiovascular health. Now I do HIIT weightlifting every other day because it’s time efficient, and I build aerobic exercise at work by briskly running around the hospital or sprinting up stairs. I also work with a trainer to use weights to build muscle mass in my chest, as a strong chest wall and diaphragm are essential to supporting a strong pulmonary system.
2) Make a statement
When I work from home, I keep moving so I don’t contract, which compresses my chest and prevents my lungs from breathing deeply. Every hour I try to remind myself to change my position – even when she moves from the wheelchair in my home office to my dining table. Every time I get up, I improve my posture, breathe deeper, and improve blood flow to my body.
If I travel to a city with high pollen counts or an air quality index in the orange range or above after the pandemic, I plan to pack a mask to prevent inhalation of allergens (I have bad seasonal allergies) or pollutants like smog and traffic fumes.
I also wear a mask when I’m doing gardening or a dusty home improvement project – dust can irritate the lining of the airways and lead to chronic lung disease. I do not expose myself to sprays, polishes, or detergents with high concentrations of bleach, ammonia, or other volatile organic compounds. There is some scientific evidence that people who use these regularly may have decreased lung function or develop COPD, one of the leading causes of death in the United States.
4) Keep your nose clear
When I have a cold, I am vigilant about getting rid of the mucus ASAP so it doesn’t drip into my chest and make me sick. I cough up phlegm from my chest, constantly blow my nose, or use one of those paranasal sinuses from the pharmacy.
5) Breathe Better
I practice mindful breathing whenever I can. I don’t know how much it benefits my lungs, but I do know it helps me cope with the aftermath of working in a stressful job during a pandemic. I like the Breathe app on my Apple Watch. I adjust my inhalations and exhalations to the circles as they open and close, and I’m amazed at how much calmer I feel after just a few breaths.
This story originally appeared in the November 2020 issue of Men health.
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