In the time it took between when you clicked on the link to this article and when the page actually loaded, you almost certainly used your lungs. There are very few things you use more frequently than your lungs, as they are responsible for moving air in and out all day long, day after day.
Healthy lungs can bring you the fresh oxygen your body needs to continue functioning properly, while unhealthy lungs can make it very difficult to complete that seemingly simply task. It’s easy to take your lungs for granted – until they’re not able to do their job successfully.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at 15 things you may not have known about your lungs. While nearly everyone knows that smoking can (and will) do bad things to your lungs, there are plenty of other facts that you may find interesting as well. One of the biggest keys to caring for your body is understanding how it works in the first place, as we hope this article will help toward that end.
1. They Float
Not that you would want them to – because they would be outside of your body – but your lungs would float on water if given the chance. That makes them the only organ in your body with that distinction, but again, this is kind of an odd point because you would ideally like to keep all of your organs, y’know,inside your body.
2. Make Way for the Heart
While your lungs are important, they also happen to live next door to another extremely important organ: the heart. In order to make room for the heart to do its work, your left lung is slightly smaller than the right. This is good news, as you certainly want to give your heart as much room as necessary to do its thing. It is, after all, keeping you alive. So there’s that.
3. 13 Pints of Air… Per Minute
Under normal conditions, the average person will breathe a total of 13 pints of air each and every minute. That’s an impressive total, and it highlights exactly why we need to care for the environment and the air around us – because we breathe incredible amounts of it all day long. Without fresh, clean air to breathe, the work of the lungs becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible to accomplish.
4. In and Out
You probably don’t think much about breathing during your day to day life, because it is something that happens “automatically” since the time you were born. However, did you know that you breathe somewhere around 22,000 times each and every day?
It’s a good thing that you don’t have to think about it in order to do it, because you would almost certainly forget at least a few times out of 22,000. After all, you would have to set a lot of reminders on your phone in order to keep track of all that activity.
5. Millions of Air Sacks
The air sacks that are inside your lungs are known as alveoli, and you have a lot of them. How many is a lot? Somewhere in the range of 300 – 500 million!
These are the actual points where carbon dioxide and oxygen are exchanged, and they sit at the end of your smallest airways. You can thank these sacks for your ability to breathe each day – although you won’t be able to see them to say thanks unless you have access to a powerful microscope.
6. Tennis Anyone?
This is another fact you can think about in theory, but you would never want to see played out in real life. If the surface area of your lungs were laid out on the ground – which would be gross – they would cover an area approximately equal to one half of a tennis court. It is hard to imagine that much space being taken up just by the surface area of your lungs, but it just goes to show how incredible the body can be.
7. Built-In Protection
It is the job of your ribs to protect your lungs, as well as your heart. Of course, the heart and the lungs are two of the most important organs in the body, so it only makes sense that they are hidden from the outside by the rib cage.
In order to remain in place securely, the lungs are attached to the front and back of your body – they connect to the chest bone in front, and the spinal cord in back.
8. Uninflated to Start
You want to keep your lungs inflated throughout your life – that should go without saying. However, did you know that your lungs don’t start out that way?
When you are born, your lungs are not yet inflated. They are filled with fluid, and the first breath of fresh air doesn’t actually take place until around 10 seconds after you have been delivered out of the birth canal.
9. Bringing Air to Your Blood
The critical function of your lungs is to deliver your blood the oxygen it needs to keep doing its job successfully. The alveoli that we mentioned earlier are key in this process, as they are surrounding by capillaries which are able to allow blood to absorb oxygen before going on its way.
10. Brain Control
Not surprisingly, the lungs are controlled by the brain in terms of how much air they are going to introduce to your body. It is your brain that tells your lungs how much oxygen is needed, and your rate of respiration will respond in kind.
This explains why you naturally start to breathe harder as you exercise – your brain notices that the blood needs more oxygen, so your breathing deepens and speeds up until you have what you need.
11. You Can Get by With One
It would be ideal to keep both of your lungs working properly, but it is possible to live with just one.
For most normal day to day activities, living with just one lung would not significantly impact your quality of life. Of course, things like exercise would become more difficult, or even impossible in some cases, but living with only one lung is most certainly doable.
12. Smoking Can Ruin Your Lungs
Okay, so this probably shouldn’t go under the category of “things you didn’t know,” because you likely already know this. Still, no article about the lungs would be complete without reinforcing the point that smoking is terrible for your lungs – as well as your overall health.
If you choose to smoke, you will be increasing your risk for lung cancer dramatically, and you will also be doing damage to your lungs that is never going to be repaired. In other words, just put down the cigarettes and don’t look back.
13. You Can Increase Your Capacity
Your lung capacity is not just something you’re born with – you can actually work to increase the capacity of your lungs through regular exercise. When you do manage to increase capacity through exercise, you will find that oxygen is able to move throughout your body faster, and you will be able to complete more physical activity without losing your breath.
14. Lungs Play a Crucial Role in Talking
The noises you organize into words in order to communicate with those around you are largely controlled by the lungs – or, at least, the lungs play a big role in making them happen. The voice box (larynx) sits just above your wind pipe (trachea), and the amount of air you move through this area will influence the pitch and volume of the sounds you make. You probably haven’t thought about speaking in this way before, but it really is up to your lungs to determine how much noise you can create.
15. They Need to Be a Priority
As you work to keep your body as healthy as possible, it is important that you care first for the things in the middle – specifically, the heart and the lungs. It is obviously necessary to keep your heart as healthy as possible, but it is also crucial to care for your lungs so they can keep taking oxygen to your blood for years to come. Through exercise, an avoidance of smoking, and other basic steps, you will be able to rely on your lungs to keep air moving throughout the rest of your life.