Why does a person need air and how does the lungs work?


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Breathing is a very important process in which oxygen gets into the body and carbon dioxide is removed. Without oxygen, a person cannot last longer than 5-7 minutes, so the lungs – the main organ of the respiratory tract – are protected from chest damage. Gas exchange takes place in the lungs: oxygen from the air enters the bloodstream and carbon dioxide is released from the blood directly into the lungs. As you know, a person has two lungs, but despite the same functions, they are different in size. According to York University, the right lung is shorter because it has room for the liver, which is just below it. The left lung is narrower because the heart needs space. And in 2017, scientists discovered that the lungs have additional functions – they are involved in the process of hematopoiesis and may play an important role in this.

Lungs – the most important respiratory organ, the health of which must be closely monitored

The air on our planet mainly consists of nitrogen (approx. 78%) and oxygen (approx. 20%). The air also contains carbon dioxide, argon, neon, krypton, methane, helium, hydrogen, xenon.

How does the lungs work?

According to the American Lung Association, an adult typically breathes 15 to 20 breaths per minute, which is about 20,000 breaths a day. Infants tend to breathe faster than adults. For example, the normal breathing rate of a newborn is about 40 times per minute, while the average resting breathing rate for adults is 12 to 16 breaths per minute. Each lung has its own pleural sac. Therefore, the other can continue to work if one is damaged. The right lung is divided into three different sections called lobes. In the left lung there are only two lobes, which consist of a spongy tissue surrounded by a pleural membrane. Pleura separates the lungs from the chest wall.

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In 2018, Budimir Shobat set a new world record for keeping your breath underwater. It was an unbelievable 24 minutes and 11 seconds

When the lungs expand, they draw air into the body and release carbon dioxide when compressed. The diaphragm and chest, which pump the lungs with air, help them do this. When a person breathes, air flows through their throat and enters the trachea. The trachea is divided into smaller passages – a bronchial tree, the branches of which grow into each lung. The branches branch into smaller units along the entire length of each side of the lungs, and the smallest branches are called bronchioles, each of which is equipped with an air sac. According to the Department of Anatomy at the University of Göttingen, there are approximately 480 million alveoli in the lungs.

A person's lungs vary in size, but the functions perform the same functions

The walls of the alveoli are covered with a large number of capillary veins. Oxygen gets through the alveoli, capillaries and blood, is transported to the heart and then pumped through the body to tissues and organs. When oxygen enters the bloodstream, carbon dioxide from the blood reaches the alveoli and is then removed from the body. This process is called gas exchange. When a person breathes shallowly, carbon dioxide accumulates in the body. As scientists have found, this buildup causes yawning.

If greatly simplified, the lungs saturate the blood with oxygen and carry it to the heart and other organs. Carbon dioxide returns blood to the lungs, which we get rid of when we exhale.

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What are lung diseases?

The lungs have special protection. These are cilia, which cover and clean the respiratory tract from dust particles, germs and other undesirable objects that can get there. However, like other organs of the human body, the lungs are susceptible to a number of unpleasant diseases, many of which are life-threatening. Diseases, inheritance, viruses and poor nutrition can contribute to the development of diseases. The most common lung diseases today are asthma, emphysema and cancer, two of which are directly related to smoking.

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Doctors examine lung images of a patient infected with a new coronavirus

The most common lung infections like bronchitis or pneumonia are usually caused by viruses, but according to Ohio University, there are lesions from fungal organisms or bacteria. The new corona virus, whose pandemic is raging all over the world, leads to the development of SARS in severe cases when the lung membranes are filled with fluid. Because of this, the lungs do not get enough oxygen and the person dies of suffocation.

What to do for lung health?

One of the best ways to keep your lungs healthy is to avoid exposure to tobacco smoke, since at least 70 of the 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke damage lung cells. According to the Mayo Clinic, tobacco users have the highest risk of developing lung cancer. In addition, scientists recently discovered that cigarette addiction increases the risk of CoVID-19. The more people smoke, the higher the risk. But there is good news – as Livescience writes, the lungs can recover from most damage when a person stops smoking.

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The Rush University Medical Center also offers breathing exercises and regular exercises to keep the lungs healthy. Today, amid the new coronavirus pandemic, the best thing you can do for your own health is to quit smoking and follow the recommendations of the World Health Organization. And how you can not get infected with CoVID-19, read in our special material.