Most of us realize the dangers of smoking as they relate to lung cancer -- with more than 7,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke, it can harm every organ in your body, as well as those who inhale second-hand smoke. But did you know there are other factors to keep your lungs healthy and reduce your risk for lung cancer? November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month - a great time to introduce healthier habits for your lungs.
Exercise is crucial for lung health. Aerobic activity (walking, running, biking, etc) allows your heart and breathing rate to increase. The heart muscle works harder and gets stronger. This, in turn, makes for a more efficient circulatory and respiratory system. That means that your heart and lungs do not have to work as hard to pump blood and oxygen throughout your body. Thirty minutes of exercise, five days a week is recommended for everyone. If you aren’t capable of thirty minutes to start with, break it up into three 10-minute workouts. Strength training, another important exercise component, can build your core muscles which are important for breathing and posture. It’s important to talk to your health care team to create a plan that is right for you.
Take a breath
Did you know that practicing intentional breathing can improve your health? In fact, creating a breathing practice (or taking time each day to do deep breathing exercises) can increase your oxygen levels and allow your diaphragm to work more efficiently (not to mention it can help lower your blood pressure and ease anxiety). Here ‘s a simple breathing exercise to practice. Try this when you are not short of breath and at rest relaxing:
- Inhale through your nose (you can count slowly to four). Hold that breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale through your mouth for a count of eight.
The timing isn’t critical, just slow controlled breathing. Try to do this breathing for four cycles, twice a day. It should get easier as your practice which indicates more efficient breathing. You might also notice feeling more relaxed and less anxious.
Healthy eating is paramount to your overall wellness including lung health. Eating heavily processed, packaged foods, added sugars and processed meats can contribute to overconsumption of calories resulting in being overweight or obese. Being overweight and/or obese is a risk factor for both asthma and obstructive sleep apnea. By eating a whole-food, plant-based diet (meaning non-processed foods and including a variety of vegetables, beans/lentils, fruit, nuts, seeds, healthy oils along with lean protein sources) you fuel your body with nutrients it needs. Many of these foods - like the ones featured in the video above and recipe below - also contain powerful nutrients that help rid the body of cancer cells and help prevent them from growing.
3-Bean Chili with Vegetables
(Makes 16, 1 ¼ cup servings)
- 1 ½ tablespoons canola oil
- 2 cups chopped onion
- ⅔ cup chopped carrot
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups frozen whole-kernel corn
- 1 cup chopped red bell pepper (about 1 large)
- 1 cup chopped zucchini
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
- 2 (16-ounce) cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 (16-ounce) cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 (6-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato paste
- 1 ½ tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 ½ teaspoons to 1 tablespoon finely chopped chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce
- 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
- 1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
- Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and garlic; sauté five minutes.
- Stir in four cups water and next 12 ingredients (through tomato paste); bring to a boil.
- Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes or until carrot is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in vinegar and chipotle.
- Top with fresh cilantro, cheese, and sour cream as desired.
Taking the time for exercise, deep breathing, and healthier eating will improve not only your lung health, but also your overall quality of life. If you need direction on how to change your eating habits or for other wellness needs, contact a dietitian who can guide you to a healthier future!
If you would like more information on nutrition for breast cancer, contact one of the oncology dietitians at The Christ Hospital Cancer Center:
- Sarah Heffron, M.Ed., RD, CSO: 513-585-4340
- Kristen Leavitt, MHA, RDN, CSP: 513-585-4495
- Laura Loch, RDN, LD: 513-585-4250