Saturday, August 4, 2012

Look after your lungs & brain

brain and lungs B+S
How to prevent dementia and lung cancer. Picture: Supplied

MILLIONS are at risk of lung disease and dementia – find out if you’re one of them and what you can do to protect your health.
- The Australian Lung Foundation says:

1.  Don’t smoke. If you do, quit

“The most important thing is to acknowledge the harm smoking is doing and try to quit,” says Professor Matthew Peters, spokesman for The Australian Lung Foundation (ALF).

Smoking puts you at high risk for lung cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, chest and lung illnesses and the deterioration of asthma.

One of the deadliest parts of a cigarette is carbon monoxide, which takes the place of oxygen in your blood, robbing the lungs, heart and other organs of the oxygen they need.

“If you’ve tried to quit and failed, increase your motivation by talking to a free quit expert at Quitline on 13 78 48,” Peters says.

2. Exercise regularly, in moderation  

With regular exercise, the body’s cardio-respiratory system works efficiently to transport oxygen to the muscles and tissues, providing overall strength and improving energy. Lung capacity does not necessarily improve, but a healthy level of fitness may reduce the amount of work the lungs have to do.

The lungs’ most important job is to absorb oxygen and eliminate carbon dioxide, an essential part of life. “Plus, every drop of blood must flow through the lungs,” Peters says. “If one is damaged, the capacity of the heart to pump blood is reduced, no matter how strong the heart is.”

Peters recommends 30 to 45 minutes of exercise, three to five times a week.

3. Complete the Lung Health Checklist 

As lung problems are difficult to diagnose, the ALF recommends completing the lung health checklist. 

Do you:

+ Have a new, persistent or changed cough?

+ Cough up mucus, phlegm or blood? 

+ Get out of breath more easily than others your age? 

+ Experience chest tightness or wheeze? 

+ Have frequent chest infections? 

+ Experience fatigue or sudden weight loss?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, your lung health could be at risk. See your doctor with any concerns. You can find the checklist at

- Alzheimer’s Australia says:

1. Eat foods that aid brain health

Like the rest of the body, the brain operates at its best when fed a nutritious diet.

Suha Ali, national dementia risk reduction manager at Alzheimer’s Australia, says while a balanced diet is always advised, there are foods that enhance brain health.

“A Mediterranean-style diet which includes lots of fish and fresh fruit and vegetables is recommended because it is rich in essential fatty acids and antioxidants,” she says.

“Evidence has suggested a diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3s may play a significant role in reducing our risk of dementia.

“Avoid trans-fats, which can be found in processed and packaged foods, and reduce consumption of saturated fats,” Ali says.

2. Be physically active and get regular medical checks

“Several studies have found being active in early, mid and late life is good for cognition and brain health, suggesting it may reduce the risk of dementia,” Ali says.

Like the heart, she says the brain is highly vascular, so exercise is essential for maintaining adequate blood flow to the brain. Alzheimer’s Australia recommends 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise.

If you are over 45, you should be tested for diabetes and high cholesterol every one to two years, or on your GP’s advice.
Studies have shown high cholesterol in mid and late life can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s, while having diabetes can increase the risk by 65 per cent.

3. Challenge your brain with new activities

Research suggests that any activity involving thinking and learning may protect against dementia.

“There is very good evidence that challenging the brain can help build brain reserves, which act like a brain back-up,” Ali says.

Alzheimer’s Australia suggests regularly engaging in activities such as learning a language, enrolling in a course, reading, playing board games and cards, doing jigsaws and crosswords, going to the movies and theatre, and researching a favourite topic.

There is also a risk reduction program called Mind Your Mind (, which includes the BrainyApp, which allows you to assess, track and improve brain-heart health.

--------- “I’ll live a long life because of an early diagnosis”

Colette Beeston, 47, was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease three years ago.

“I grew up on a sheep and wheat station, a dusty environment full of chemicals. In my early 20s I started smoking. This increased to two or three packets a day until I quit in 2002.

“In 2008 I started getting chest infections and found it harder to exercise so I booked an appointment  with my doctor.

“The results came back with early stages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It can be maintained with daily medication and exercise, so I try to walk, jog or cycle daily. I should live a long life because I was diagnosed early.”