World Lung Day - September 25
World Lung Day (WLD), September 25th, is a day for lung health advocacy and action, an opportunity for us all to unite and promote better lung health globally.
Breathing is essential to life, and lung health impacts every part of the body. Despite our efforts, 1.6 million people still die from lung cancer each year, making it the number one cancer killer in the U.S. Other lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which kills 3 million people each year, are the fourth leading cause of death nationwide. Additionally, 1 in 13 people suffer from asthma according to the CDC, meaning that more than 25 million Americans struggle every day to breathe because of the disease.
Fortunately, most respiratory diseases are preventable. But it is up to us to be vigilant. There are many contributing risk factors that contribute to the dangers hanging in the air.
Taking care of our lungs is now more important than ever. So, this year on 25 September, we will be asking the world to ‘care for your lungs’ and keep them healthy.
The 2021 WLD theme, “Care for Your Lungs”, will focus on:
- Say no to tobacco
- Protect them through vaccination
- Breathe clean air
- Take regular physical exercise
Respiratory diseases impose an immense worldwide health burden. The facts are shocking:
- 65 million people suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and 3 million people die from it each year, making it the third leading cause of death worldwide.
- 10 million people develop tuberculosis and 1.6 million die from it each year, making it the most common lethal infectious disease.
- 1.76 million people die from lung cancer each year, making it the most deadly cancer.
- 334 million people suffer from asthma, making it the most common chronic disease of childhood. It affects 14 percent of children globally − and rising.
- Pneumonia kills millions of people each year making it a leading cause of death in the very young and very old.
- 91 percent of the world’s population live in places where air quality exceeds WHO guideline limits.
Say no to tobaccoTobacco causes 8 million deaths every year and is the main cause of many lung diseases. Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic and can cause cancer.
Stopping smoking is the best way to improve your lung health and overall health.
Quitting tobacco has the potential to reverse some of the damage done by tobacco smoke to the lungs, but not all. Early cessation is therefore essential to preventing the onset of chronic lung disease, which is irreversible once developed. The benefits of quitting tobacco are almost immediate.
- After just 20 minutes of quitting smoking, your heart rate drops.
- Within 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
- Within 2–12 weeks, your circulation improves and lung function increases.
- Within 1–9 months, coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
- Within 5–15 years, your stroke risk is reduced to that of a non-smoker.
- Within 10 years, your lung cancer death rate is about half that of a smoker.
- Within 15 years, your risk of heart disease is that of a non-smoker.
Care for your lungs, say no to tobacco. Here are some resources to help you:
World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 100 reasons to quit tobacco.
Take part in the WHO Quit Challenge and receive support via text.
Say no to vaping
Vaping is the use of an electronic system to deliver inhaled drugs, most commonly nicotine and cannabinoids (natural or synthetic forms of marijuana).
There is increasing evidence that inhaled nicotine from e-cigarettes damages lung tissue and lowers the body’s natural resistance to infections and to cancers and emissions from these devices are hazardous to the lungs.
Learn more about e-cigarettes/vaping.
Protect your lungs through vaccination
Vaccines save millions of lives each year. Vaccines work by training and preparing the body’s natural defenses, the immune system, to recognize and fight off the viruses and bacteria they target. If the body is exposed to those germs later, the body is immediately ready to destroy them thereby preventing illness.
Getting vaccinated can protect you from lots of different infectious diseases and help you keep your lungs healthy. Pneumococcal pneumonia, COVID-19, influenza, and whooping cough are examples of respiratory infections that can be prevented by vaccination.
Vaccination can also help to protect other people. People can be protected if those close to them (like friends and family members) and enough people in their communities (including healthcare professionals) are vaccinated because it stops infections from spreading.
People with a lung condition or other health conditions can be at a higher risk of lung infections.
You can prevent some of these infections by getting vaccinated.
Read more about how vaccines work to prevent infections.
Find out what vaccinations are available to protect people from lung diseases.
Breathe clean air
Air pollution kills an estimated 7 million people worldwide every year. WHO data shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants.
Air pollution has a negative impact on human health and exposure to it can affect 100% of the population, from unborn babies to the very elderly. The lungs are the first point of entry for air pollution into the body and are therefore the first affected organ. Air pollution affects everyone−rich and poor, developed and developing countries, but it hits the hardest where the exposure is greatest, low and middle-income countries.
Test your knowledge on the importance of clean air for healthy lungs with the Healthy Lungs for Life quiz.
Check air pollution levels where you live.
Learn more about the benefits of clean air during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Take regular physical activity
Regular physical activity and exercise improve quality of life, whether you are healthy or you have a lung condition. Many people associate keeping fit with maintaining a healthy heart, losing weight, and reducing the risk of illnesses such as diabetes, but exercise also helps keep lungs healthy.
When you exercise, your heart beats faster and your lungs work harder. Your body needs more oxygen to fuel your muscles. Your lungs step up their activity to deliver that oxygen while expelling additional carbon dioxide. In addition, your lungs expand during exercise compared to when not exercising, preventing compression of lower lung areas.
It is best to ask the guidance of a doctor or physiotherapist before you begin changing your activity levels, to ensure that your plans are in line with your capacity and are safe. All exercise and physical activity programs must be built up over time to allow the body to adapt.
Read tips on exercising if you have lung disease.
Watch the European Lung Foundation easy at-home exercise video series.
How else can we protect ourselves and our loved ones?We urge everyone to make a few simple changes to help us advocate for healthy air for all.
- Walk, bike or carpool. Use buses, subways, light rail systems, commuter trains, or other alternatives to driving your car to help reduce air pollution from vehicles.
- Most electricity generated creates air pollution, so reduce energy use. Check out the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's easy tips for conserving energy at home.
- Use hand-powered or electric lawn care equipment rather than gasoline-powered. Old two-stroke engines like lawnmowers and leaf or snow blowers often have no pollution control devices.
- Don't burn wood or trash. Burning firewood and trash is a major source of particle pollution (soot) in many parts of the country.
- Most importantly, get involved. Our leaders must continue working to reduce air pollution and to protect our health from the impacts of climate change, which can worsen air quality.