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Care Of The Lungs

( Originally Published 1927 )

The three essentials for maintaining life are air, water and food. Because the air is all about us and we do not have to make a special effort to get it, very few realize the importance of air in the scheme of life.

Air is the most immediately necessary of all the life maintainers. We can go without food two or three months; we can live without water several days; but if we are deprived of air for five or six minutes, life ends.

Very few die from acute deprivation of air, but multitudes perish every year whose departure is partly due to chronic air starvation. Let us see why air, with its life-giving oxygen, is so important.

We might say that life is a fire, and that the human body is burning at all times, and that if the burning stops life ceases. This is a literal fact, and not an exaggeration. The fire is different from what comes to mind when we usually think of fire with flames, gases and smoke. In the physical fire there is no flame, but it is a form of oxidation. And this oxidation must go on. Fats, proteins, and a special form of sugar must be burned to keep up the physical energy and the necessary heat.

Let this burning slow down, and the body grows chilly, and the individual becomes languid. Let the slowing process go further and the chilliness and weakness increase so that the individual has very little use of body and mind; let it proceed further and we have physical death.

We have to supply the materials to be burned, (sweets, fats, and starches principally) in our food. But the material to keep up the fire comes from the air. It is like burning coal in a stove. The coal is carbon which unites with the oxygen, liberating energy which we use for heating purposes. If the air is shut out entirely (which can not be done in a commercial stove) the fire dies, just as an individual dies when the air is shut out of his lungs.

Air enters the lungs, and through hundreds of square feet of membranous lung surface it enters the blood stream, for the essential of the lungs is a thin membrane with blood on one side and air on the other. The oxygen filters through this thin membrane, unites with a compound in the red blood corpuscles, and forms oxy-hemoglobin. As such it is carried to all parts of the body, and the different tissues take what they need of it, combustion ensues, and as a result the body is heated and energized; also, as a result of combustion water and waste are formed. The blood stream can take care of the water, but the waste has to be carried away. The carbonic acid gas must be thrown out of the body regularly, or else there is chilliness and clamminess—decrease of vigor and health. Fortunately, the waste elimination is automatic if we breathe deeply, for the blood carries this poisonous gas back to the lungs, where it escapes outward while the oxygen enters the blood stream.

Fresh air rejuvenates, and aids in maintaining the individual young, strong, and healthy. It paints the cheeks with color that the drug store products can not rival in delicacy and beauty. And the air is free. But not one per-son in twenty takes advantage of this blessing, which we can have in abundance without expenediture of time or effort.

Most adults, especially the women, breathe with only the upper part of the lungs. Watch a baby breathing and learn the correct way. The abdomen rises with every inhalation and falls with every exhalation. Adults should breathe in the same manner, called diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing. In order to do this it is necessary to dress correctly, and one item in correct dressing is to avoid tightly constricting bands or garments about the waist. Men should not wear tight belts. Women should avoid tight corsets. If they feel that they must support the breasts, garments can be made or purchased for that purpose.

Acquire correct breathing habits. Let the waist line be free; then throw the shoulders back, close the mouth and inhale slowly and fully through the nose. Pay no attention to the chest while doing this. Fill the lungs, as you should, and the chest will of itself expand to the sides and forward, and the abdomen will rise. After filling the lungs, slowly exhale, and expel the air partly through the mouth, if you wish. Repeat this a dozen or more times. It is well to take this breathing exercise three times daily when in the open air, until the habit of deep breathing is firmly established. This can be done while walking or driving in the open air. Or it can be done before an open window, or while standing still, if the individual has plenty of time. It helps to keep the in ternal organs clean, and cleanliness means health, and health means vigor and prolonged youth, which can be made the foundation of a successful life.

Every woman should have at least three inches of chest expansion, and a man should have an expansion of four inches or more. If the expansion is too small, practice deep breathing, and stretching, and the expansion will gradually increase.

Some say that the chest should be thrust forward and carried high. There is no objection to this except that it is very tiresome and consumes too much energy. Throw the shoulders back, get the habit of deep breathing, and the chest position will take care of itself. Pay no attention to the chest walls and the abdominal wall when breathing, for if you fill the lungs with air, these walls will take care of themselves. Also, there is no advantage in holding the breath. If it is overdone, as it sometimes is among those playing wind instruments, it may help to produce asthma.

But what are we going to do about that dangerous, deadly night air ? The truth is that the night air is as salubrious as the day air. No dangers lurk in it. It contains just as good oxygen as the day air. It is even more important that the air breathed at night be pure than during the daytime, for during the night the vital forces are slowed down, and less air is consumed. Night being the time of rest, relaxation, rejuvenation and rebuilding, it is necessary to have the best of air to get fine results.

Arrange to have air freely entering the bed-room both summer and winter. There is no need of having a draught blowing over the bed, nor is there any special advantage in it. Sensitive individuals are sometimes adversely affected by draughts, for they may cause congestion in different parts of the body, and one common form of congestion is a cold. If there is a strong wind, it is not necessary to open the windows as wide as on a quiet night.

Have free ventilation at night. Sleeping porches and tents are good, provided the sleeper stays warm and dry.

Arrange to keep warm in bed, also to be well supplied with fresh air. Get into a comfortable physical position. Refuse to take cares and worries to bed, and you will soon be enjoying restful sleep.

Great lung capacity is an indication of large vital capacity. Get the habit of filling the lungs with good air during the day, and have plenty of fresh air at night. A free supply of oxygen is necessary to keep the blood clean. Cleanliness is health.

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