4th November 2023, Mumbai: As air pollution in Delhi NCR continues to wreak havoc on our health, here are lifestyle measures and nutrition tips that can help protect our precious lungs. There is no relief from air pollution as Delhi-NCR’s air quality continues to deteriorate with AQI levels in the severe category. Pollution exposure can cause inflammation in lungs and lead to adverse respiratory health effects.
Understanding the Impact of Air Pollutants on Lung Function
Oxidant air pollutants such as ozone, particulate matter, and nitrogen dioxide can affect lung function. They can also lead to difficulty in breathing, allergy flare-ups, asthma, and other lung issues. It is important to take care of your lungs by adopting the right lifestyle practices and eating a balanced diet with a lot of antioxidants and nutrients. Consuming adequate liquids, fruits, vegetables, and regular physical activity can also enhance lung capacity.
Winter Air Pollution and its Impact on Lung Health
Winter air pollution can significantly impact lung health. During this season, there are elevated concentrations of harmful substances like particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide in the air. Individuals with pre-existing lung diseases like asthma, bronchitis, COPD, or respiratory infections are at a high risk due to exposure to poor-quality air. This exposure can manifest as an increase in breathlessness, cough, fever, a change in the color of sputum to yellow, or a drop in oxygen saturation (SpO2), along with throat irritation.
Expert Advice: Protecting Lungs from Pollution and Ensuring Proper Nutrition
“To protect your lungs from increasing air pollution, prioritize antioxidant-rich foods like berries and leafy greens, along with Omega-3 sources such as fatty fish and seeds. Incorporate herbal teas like green tea for their anti-inflammatory benefits. Stay hydrated to maintain respiratory mucus. Including all types of fruits in your diet can also help prevent lung damage from rising pollution levels. These dietary adjustments, coupled with reducing exposure during peak pollution hours and quitting smoking, can significantly improve lung health,” says Dr. Nikhil Modi, Senior Consultant, Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals.
Mitigating Risks: General Lifestyle Changes for Lung Health Protection
“Now is the season when pollution is at its peak, and with winter approaching, it becomes a crucial time for our lung health. Patients suffering from lung diseases, allergies, COPD, or interstitial lung disease are more susceptible to the adverse effects of increased pollution levels and changing weather. During this time, viral infections are also prevalent, which can further impact these patients. To mitigate these risks, there are a few general lifestyle changes and dietary adjustments we can make,” says Dr. Sourabh Pahuja, Senior Consultant, Dept of Pulmonary Medicine, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad.
Preventing Exposure and Enhancing Lung Function
It is imperative to prevent pollution exposure as much as possible, and wearing masks and using air fresheners can help. It is important to keep doing physical activities and Yoga or deep breathing exercises to enhance lung function.
“During peak pollution hours i.e. early mornings and evenings, it is advisable to limit outdoor activities and consider wearing protective masks preferably N95 over surgical to safeguard your lungs amid increasing air pollution. Manage interior air quality by minimizing the use of chemical cleaners and air fresheners. Regular physical activity, such as brisk walking, yoga, or swimming, can enhance lung capacity and overall respiratory function. Quitting smoking is imperative, as it greatly impacts lung health and exacerbates the effects of air pollution. Additionally, practicing deep breathing exercises like pursed-lip breathing and diaphragmatic breathing can improve lung function and clear the airways. Maintaining a clean, dust-free home is also essential to prevent indoor allergens and irritants that can worsen respiratory issues. You can also consider incorporating air-purifying plants to improve indoor air quality. Optionally, air purifiers can be used as well,” says Dr. Modi.
Utilizing Natural Air Purifiers and Protective Measures
“People can also improve indoor air quality by using a good-quality air purifier or by introducing certain plants like Areca palm, snake plant, money plant, and aloe vera, which significantly clean the air inside the home. When going outside, it’s advisable to limit outdoor activities to the afternoon and avoid outdoor work or exercise during early morning and late evening hours. Wearing a good-quality N95 mask can help prevent exposure to poor air quality, especially during morning and evening hours,” says Dr. Gupta.
Balanced Diet and Hydration for Combating Pollution
Dr. Pahuja advises a balanced diet, multivitamins, proper hydration to help prepare the body for battling pollution. “In terms of diet, it’s essential to maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes adequate carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Additionally, for individuals with vitamin deficiencies, such as vitamin D or vitamin B, it’s advisable to incorporate multivitamins into their diet. Hydration is another critical factor to consider during this season. Everyone should ensure they remain adequately hydrated by increasing their fluid intake to maintain normal hydration levels in the body,” says the expert.
Guidelines for Individuals with Pre-existing Respiratory Disorders
“Individuals with respiratory or allergic disorders are recommended to avoid going outside during peak pollution times, such as early mornings and late nights. Exercising outdoors in heavily polluted weather should also be avoided. Wearing an N-95 mask while venturing outside can help prevent viral infections and minimize exposure to pollution. For individuals with respiratory disorders, it’s important to continue taking their prescribed medications before going out. To prevent viral infections, consider getting vaccinated, especially for influenza and pneumococcal vaccines. This is particularly crucial for individuals over the age of 65 and those with chronic conditions like chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, chronic respiratory diseases, or chronic heart disease,” says Dr. Pahuja. If anyone develops respiratory symptoms like cough, breathlessness, or fever lasting more than three to five days, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional.
Preventive Measures for Diwali and Beyond
“With the upcoming Diwali festival, the air quality is expected to worsen due to firecracker burning and increased vehicle pollution. Hence, it’s crucial to implement preventive measures and stay hydrated by consuming plenty of liquids and seasonal fruits over the next month,” says Dr. Gupta.
Prioritizing Lung Health Amidst Challenging Environmental Conditions
The deteriorating air quality in Delhi-NCR poses a significant threat to lung health, especially for those with pre-existing respiratory conditions. By implementing the aforementioned lifestyle changes, dietary adjustments, and protective measures, individuals can reduce the risk of adverse effects caused by pollution and promote better lung health. It is essential to prioritize lung protection to safeguard overall well-being in the face of escalating environmental challenges.
1. What are the most effective dietary changes to protect lungs from air pollution?
Answer: Including antioxidant-rich foods like berries and leafy greens, along with Omega-3 sources such as fatty fish and seeds, can be beneficial. Herbal teas like green tea for their anti-inflammatory benefits, hydration to maintain respiratory mucus, and a diverse range of fruits in the diet can help prevent lung damage from rising pollution levels.
2. How can individuals with pre-existing respiratory disorders protect themselves during high pollution periods?
Answer: It is recommended to avoid outdoor activities during peak pollution times, wear N95 masks while outside, and continue taking prescribed medications. Vaccination against respiratory viruses is also advisable, especially for vulnerable individuals with chronic conditions.
3. What are some practical lifestyle changes to mitigate the risks of pollution during the winter season?
Answer: Limiting outdoor activities during peak pollution hours, using air purifiers and air-purifying plants indoors, practicing deep breathing exercises, and maintaining a clean, dust-free home are effective strategies. Quitting smoking and staying hydrated are also essential for reducing the impact of pollution.
4. How can individuals prepare for the upcoming Diwali festival and its impact on air quality?
Answer: Implementing preventive measures such as staying hydrated by consuming plenty of liquids and seasonal fruits can help mitigate the effects of increased air pollution due to firecracker burning and heightened vehicle pollution during the Diwali festival.
5. What steps can individuals take to enhance indoor air quality and protect themselves from pollutants at home?
Answer: Using a good-quality air purifier and introducing air-purifying plants like Areca palm, snake plant, money plant, and aloe vera can significantly clean the air inside the home. Minimizing the use of chemical cleaners and air fresheners, keeping the home dust-free, and wearing N95 masks during peak pollution hours when going outside are also recommended practices.
-by Kashvi Gala