This lung expert offers her advice on how we can decrease our chances of lung disease

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Take a deep breath.

At its most basic, it will calm you down and ease your aching neck. At its most vital, it will literally keep you alive. Each time we inhale, our lungs bring life-sustaining oxygen into our body. When we exhale, they push out carbon dioxide from our blood in a kind of gas exchange agreement.

According to the

Canadian Lung Association

, we breathe in and out about 22,000 times a day, yet most of us pay little attention to that vital pair of spongy organs sitting neatly on either side of our chest. Until something goes wrong, that is, and then it’s all we think about.

As much as these precious life-preservers do for us, we must also do for them to keep them healthy and functioning, especially as we age, when lung capacity declines. Dr. Anne Hicks, an assistant professor, as well as the director and clinical lead at the

Children’s Environmental Health Clinic

(ChEHC) at the University of Alberta, offers advice on how to do just that.

How do our lungs protect us from the air out there?

Our lungs clean toxins, bacteria and viruses out of the air that we breathe. They also act as a filter that can remove blood clots from our system.

A lot of the toxins that lungs remove are related to air pollution — black carbon, fine particulate matter from car exhaust, smoke and industrial pollution that are common components of smog, and also naturally occurring dust and wildfire smoke.

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