By Amanda McGarrigle
Inhale, exhale, repeat.
There is nothing more fundamentally important than the ability to breathe. Breathing is essential for life, from our first breath to our last. A person can survive weeks without food, days without water, but only a few minutes without air. Our lungs work hard every day, with every breath, to ensure our body gets the oxygen it needs. Each breath we take travels through approximately 1,500 miles of airways to tiny air sacs called alveoli where oxygen is delivered to the blood to be taken to our tissues. At the same time carbon dioxide is removed from the blood so that it can be exhaled. These tiny air sacs in our lungs have a surface area large enough to cover an entire tennis court.
The lungs are different from any other internal organ because they are directly exposed to the outside environment.
Our lungs are threatened daily by many pollutants in the air that we breathe including smoke, air pollution, chemicals, and germs. According to the American Lung Association, lung disease is responsible for one in six deaths each year, while lung cancer remains the number one cancer killer for both men and women in the United States.
For the millions of people suffering from lung disorders, each breath can be a constant source of concern. When the lungs are damaged or weakened from disease, overall health is compromised. It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of unhealthy lungs such as coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. If lungs are not healthy even daily activities like talking, walking, and eating can be difficult.
So how do we keep our lungs healthy?
The most important way is by not smoking. Cigarette smoking causes irreversible lung damage and has been proven to cause lung disease and lung cancer. Another way is by avoiding exposure to damaging pollutants such as secondhand smoke, household chemicals, and outdoor air pollution that cause lung irritation and inflammation. Always ensure proper ventilation when doing household projects like cleaning or painting and check daily air quality before heading outdoors (airnow.gov). Disease prevention is important and includes getting regular check ups, vaccinations and practicing good hand hygiene.
On July 30, hundreds of people will huff and puff their way up and down the stairs in the North Charleston Coliseum by participating in the Fight for Air Climb and Ultra Climb. This is more than your same old 5K. Whether climbing for a winning time or simply to cross the finish line in honor or in memory of someone with lung disease, this event is a great challenge.
Join the MUSC Team by visiting http://www.lungusa.org/pledge-events/sc/north-charleston-climb/, click "join a team" and then click on MUSC. The first 20 people to register will receive a free pedometer.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to claim your pedometer.
For information on lung health, or for help to quit smoking, visit the American Lung Association at http://www.lungusa.org.
Employee Wellness events
- Wellness Wednesday: Respiratory therapists will be offering free lung health screenings from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. July 20 in the Children's Hospital lobby.
- Employee Fitness Series: A free strength and conditioning class will be held from 4:15 - 4:45 p.m. July 20 at the MUSC Wellness Center. Participants will receive a free day pass to the Wellness Center. Email email@example.com to register for this class.
- Mobile mammograms: The Hollings Cancer Center Mobile Van will be conducting mammograms from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 20 next to the Basic Sciences Building loading dock. Call 792-0878 to schedule an appointment.
- Eat This, Learn That: Dressing Up, Not Out! What's the Skinny on Low-Fat Flavorings?" There will be an educational taste-testing to find out how to eat flavorful food without all the added fat from noon - 12:30 p.m. in Room 107 of the Colbert Education Center & Library building. Dine on a free sample of Ensalada Valencia (a wellness dish) as you learn about the healthy ingredients and cooking techniques used to prepare the healthy items offered in the cafeteria. All participants will receive a discount coupon for their next cafeteria purchase. Space is limited to 25 participants. To register, email Katherine Boyce at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Worksite screening: The next screening will be July 21 in Room 803 Harborview Office Tower. Register at http://www.musc.edu/medcenter/ health1st.
Contact Susan Johnson at email@example.com to become involved in employee wellness at MUSC.