The Respiratory System - Taking care: keeping the respiratory system healthy
As people age, elastic tissue throughout the body begins to break down. The lungs begin to lose their elasticity, and the ability to ventilate the lungs (breathe in) becomes more difficult. In addition, many of the defenses set up to protect the respiratory system become less efficient, leaving the system open to infections.
These effects of aging can be delayed or even minimized by taking care of not only the respiratory system but the body as a whole. The following all play a vital part in keeping the body healthy and its immune response functioning at peak efficiency: proper nutrition, healthy amounts of good-quality drinking water, adequate rest, regular exercise, and stress reduction.
All forms of air pollution have some harmful effect on humans, especially on the respiratory system and its parts. For example, prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide can cause heart and respiratory disorders. The oxides of both sulfur and nitrogen attack the human respiratory system. At low concentrations, they can leading to an irritated throat and impaired breathing. At higher concentrations, they can lead to emphysema, bronchitis, and lung cancer. Although it is almost impossible to be free from air pollution in modern urban areas, steps can be taken to reduce the amount of pollutants breathed in. Avoiding polluted areas (if possible) and wearing a mask while working in dusty or dirty places are two such steps.
The single most important thing an individual can do to protect and preserve the respiratory system is to not smoke. Tobacco smoking is perhaps the single worst activity an individual can do in regards to health. In addition to nicotine, a powerful drug that affects the heart and blood vessels, tobacco smoke contains carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a well-known toxic gas that reduces the ability of hemoglobin in red blood cells to carry oxygen to all the cells in the body.
Tobacco smoke also contains tars and other chemicals that damage the delicate cells in the mucous membrane lining the respiratory tract. Cilia projecting from that membrane are either paralyzed or destroyed by cigarette smoke. Pollutants and other particles, which then cannot be removed, settle in the lungs. The extra mucus produced in response to an irritated respiratory tract provides an ideal breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
Many illnesses or disorders result from smoking tobacco. If smoking is continued over a period of time, those illnesses become progressively worse. Chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and lung cancer are a few of the serious disorders that can result from smoking. All can lead to death.