What is the Respiratory System?


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Our body’s respiratory process is an amazing example of nature’s design. It functions for a life time without a rest other than a chance to slow down when we rest or sleep.  

The name respiratory has its origins in Latin - spirare (to breath).The lungs are a vital organ and their primary function is to oxygenate the blood and remove carbon dioxide. 

The lungs are a pair of airbags (bellows); located within the chest cavity, inside the lungs are an ever reducing series of air ducts (tubes) that branch out rather like the branch of a tree.

Within this system are tiny air sacs (alveolus).  The alveoli is where the exchange of oxygen for carbon dioxide in the blood takes place; the surface area of lung tissue would cover a tennis court if laid out flat; this structure of ducts is supported by a frame work of cartilage.

The lung must expand and contract to draw in and expel air.  Air is made up of many gases, 70% nitrogen and 20% plus of oxygen.  The air being expelled has a reduced percentage of oxygen and contains more carbon dioxide after the exchange process via the alveolis.

Muscles are required to expand and contract the lungs, to support this pumping action.  You will notice that breathing out is easier than the breathing in; the negative pressure reduces the size of the ducts when breathing in and the higher pressure expands the ducts when breathing out.

We all know that water or gas travel easier through larger diameter pipes than small restricted pipes.

Lung health issues usually come back to one or more of the above mentioned; health of the alveus and their ability to transport oxygen to the blood and remove carbon dioxide.  The general health of the ducting and restrictions in the lung structure, fitness and muscle health to perform the pumping action necessary to draw in and expel air.

Lung health can be affected by our gene pool, smoking, and exposure to pollution, solvents, chemicals, dust, fibers and particulates.

To prolong and promote healthy lung function, avoid smoking and fumes, using the appropriately maintained masks and filters when working with solvents and dust; also whenever possible walk briskly to raise heart rate and breathing, which will strengthen heart and lung muscles.

Remember the body is not like a machine that wears out as you use it; we need to exercise to maintain and restore healthy body function (if you don’t use it you lose it).

The muscles that drive our lungs need exercise just like the muscles in our legs, back and the rest of our body.