Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Let's take a look at the Respiratory System

Respiratory system - 3D scene - Mozaik Digital Learning

We are currently living in lockdown so we can look after our bodies during the Covid 19 virus scare. One of the main parts of the body the virus attacks is your Respiratory System, and this controls your breathing.

So what happens when we breathe?
Well, we inhale air into your nose or mouth. It immediately travels down the back of your throat and into your windpipe, which is divided into air passages called Bronchial Tubes.  These obviously need to be open to work properly. However, they can be affected by inflammation or swelling, and even extra mucus.

The bronchial tubes pass through the lungs, where they divide into smaller air passages called Bronchioles, which themselves end in tiny balloon-like sacs called Alveoli. You body has about 600 million Aveoli. Wow!!!

Alveoli Free Vector Art - (6 Free Downloads)

The Alveoli are surrounded by a mesh of tiny blood vessels called Capillaries, and it is here that oxygen inhaled air passes into your blood. This then heads to the heart which pumps it through your body to the cells of your tissues and organs.  As the cells use the oxygen, they make carbon dioxide that goes back into your blood, which is then carried back to the lungs where it is removed from your body when you exhale.

So how can they get damaged?
Well, the lungs are different from most of the organs in your body because their tissues are directly connected to the outside environment. Anything you breathe in can affect them, including germs, tobacco smoke, and harmful substances such as dust and chemicals. You can then develop respiratory ailments from allergies and asthma, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and even lung cancer.  It should be noted that lung cancer kills more women than breast. cervical and ovarian cancers combined, according to sources.

Not taking into account the Covid 19, which we will come to later, clearly the main cause of contaminant for our lungs is smoking. It has long been the primary cause of respiratory illness, but new studies add that secondhand smoke can cause the same problems as direct smoking. It leads to a 30% increase in heart disease, and a sharp rise in the risk of lung cancer and lung infections.

But let's take a look at Covid 19.

When the virus enters your body, through breathing it in, or touching your face with the virus on your hands where you have come into contact with it on a surface, it binds to two cells in the lungs - goblet cells that produce mucus and cilia cells which have hairs on them. They normally prevent your lungs filling up with debris and fluid such as virus and bacteria and particles of dust and pollen.  The virus attacks these cells and starts to kill them, causing your lungs to begin to fill with fluid making it hard for you to breathe. This phase is thought to last a week.

It is now that your immune system will start to kick in and fight the invaders. You develop a fever and this high body temperature will create a hostile environment for the virus. You will then start to get rid of the mucus in the form of coughing or a runny nose. But in some people, particularly the elderly and people with other health conditions, the immune system can go into overdrive, as it is a particularly virulent virus. When that happens it starts to kill healthy cells too.

This more active immune response can trigger white blood cells to activate a variety of chemicals that can leak into the lungs, which along with the attack on cells will damage them even further. It can then become harder to breathe.  Any bacterial infections can also take hold at this point, and as your immune system is weakened it will struggle to fight them off. This heightened immune response can lead to organ failure and death.

Some people may have to use a Ventilator.  These are medical machines which help patients by moving air in and out of their lungs for them.

So how can we look after our lungs?

  1. Stop smoking, and stay away from second hand smoke
  2. Be in areas - both indoor and outdoor - that are low in pollution
  3. Clearly, as in Covid 19, stay away from people who have viral infections, and that includes flu too. Hence the need for social distancing.
  4. Exercise regularly. It improves blood, oxygen and nutrient flow around the body, strengthens organs, and helps to keep your systems stronger.
  5. Eat a healthy balanced diet - you need certain "essential for life" nutrients in your diet every day.
  6. Maintain a healthy weight
  7. Try and have an annual physical.

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