Ever since pulmonologist Anand S. Iyer, M.D., began working in an ICU—and especially since he’s treated people with severe COVID-19, putting them on ventilators, handling end-of-life care, and witnessing the long-term impact on their lungs in his clinic—“I’ve gained a whole new respect for lung health,” he says.
Early in his medical training, he knew that strong lungs are critical to good health. And now COVID-19 is making everyone ask how to get healthy lungs and keep them that way. Here’s what the doctor, currently also an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told us that he does to keep his lungs healthy.
1) HIIT your workout
I knew I needed to change my lifestyle a few years ago when I had to run to a code-blue emergency and arrived out of breath. That was my clue to drop the 20 pounds I’d gained in medical school and work on improving my lung and cardiovascular health. Now I do HIIT training with weightlifting every other day, because it’s time efficient, and build in bursts of aerobic exercise at work by briskly walking around the hospital or sprinting up stairs. I also work with a coach to build muscle mass in my chest using weights, since a strong chest wall and diaphragm are crucial to supporting a strong pulmonary system.
2) Take a stand
When I work from home, I move around constantly so I don’t hunch, which compresses my rib cage and prevents my lungs from taking a deep breath. Every hour, I try to remember to change my position—even if it’s moving from the rolling chair in my home office to my dining-room table. Every time I stand up, I improve my posture, breathe deeper, and improve blood flow throughout my body.
3) Mask up
If, after the pandemic, I travel to a city with a high pollen count or an air-quality index in the orange range or above, I’ll plan to pack a mask to prevent inhaling allergens (I have bad seasonal allergies) or pollutants, such as smog and traffic fumes.
I also wear a mask if I’m doing yard work or a dusty home-improvement project—dust can irritate the lining of the airways and lead to chronic lung disease. I don’t expose myself to sprays, polishes, or cleaners with high concentrations of bleach, ammonia, or other volatile organic compounds. There’s some science that people who work with these regularly can have diminished lung function or develop COPD, a leading cause of death in the U. S.
4) Keep your nose clear
If I get a cold, I’m vigilant about getting rid of mucus as fast as possible so it doesn’t drip down and settle in my chest and make me sicker. I cough up mucus from my chest, blow my nose constantly, or use one of those sinus rinses from the pharmacy.
5) Breathe better
I practice mindful breathing when I can. I don’t know how much it benefits my lungs, but I do know it helps me manage the toll of working in a high-stress job during a pandemic. I like the Breathe app on my Apple Watch. I match my inhalation and exhalation to the circles as they open and close, and I’m amazed how much calmer I feel after just a couple breaths.
This story originally appeared in the November 2020 issue of Men’s Health.
This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io