This is Secret #6 in our series on NEWSTART, the 8 secrets for optimal health. If you haven’t yet read the article on Essentials, you might want to hop over there and read that before continuing with this installment of How to Achieve Optimal health. You can catch that right HERE.
The “A” in NEWSTART stands for fresh Air. It’s important to optimal health to make sure you are getting enough Vitamin O2! Let’s look at how oxygen functions in the body, what are air quality issues we should be aware of, and how can we be sure we are getting the full benefits of the air we breathe.
Oxygen in the Body
The air we breathe is about 20% oxygen. We need that oxygen for proper functioning of the little powerhouses in each body cell that are called mitochondria. We have about 100 trillion cells in our body, so that’s a lot of mitochondria! Oxygen is picked by blood cells circulating through our lungs and is then circulated by the heart and arterial system to every part of the body. So it makes sense that anything that decreases oxygen to the lungs or its delivery to the cells will be detrimental to all body functions, especially the brain. Lung diseases, improper breathing habits and poor quality environmental air all impact our health negatively. When we don’t get enough oxygen in circulation it results in promoting negative emotions like depression and irritability. It can also cause headaches or chronic feelings of fatigue and exhaustion.
Air Quality Issues
Pure air, free from as many pollutants as possible should be our goal. Air contains ions that actually carry an electrical charge. This charge is either positive or negative. Positively charged ions cause us problems. These are common in polluted air, like smog. There are also high levels in indoor, heated air, such as you might have inside during the winter. Smoky environments, whether due to wildfires or people around you smoking are also high in positive ions. Freeways and airports as well as poorly ventilated areas tend to be high in positive ions. Negative ions on the other hand are very important for good health. We find high levels of negative ions generated near lakes, in forests, near rivers or waterfalls, at the seashore, right after rainfall or where there is an abundance of house plants. Negative ions lift your mood and are refreshing to the body.
Some pollutants are very important to watch out for as they are so damaging to health. Tobacco smoke is high on the list as is formaldehye and other chemical fumes. If you live in a home with fairly new construction or carpets it’s important to air it out well regularly. Carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide fumes from indoor heaters are both problematic. Dust, air mites, molds, fungi, ozone, lead, asbestos, pesticide residues and in some areas of the country, radon gas are all dangerous. Motor vehicle exhaust is also hard on the body. Because some modern, closed sealed buildings don’t leak much air, these pollutants can build up to dangerous levels indoors. There is even a name for this condition – Sick Building Syndrome. Symptoms include burning eyes, sore throats, coughing, itching, headaches, nausea, feelings of exhaustion and depression.
Improving Air Quality
Air Quality can be improved by implementing any or all of the following suggestions. Having one plant for every 100 square feet of indoor space is a great way to clean up the air inside! Plants are some fo the best air cleaning machines available. Do not allow smoking indoors. It’s also important to open your home to fresh air every day. The most important room where you need to be sure you have fresh air circulating is your bedroom – especially at night when you are sleeping. Make sure that all gas, oil, kerosene and coal-burning heaters are vented to the outdoors. This includes clothes dryers and stoves. If you have any fireplaces or indoor wood stoves make sure the chimneys are open and in good repair. Air your whole house out regularly.
Get all the Benefits!
To make sure you are getting all the benefits of the fresh air indoors and out, you need to be sure you are breathing correctly. As you read this, do a little check up:
- How are you sitting right now? What is your posture like?
- Is your breathing shallow or deep?
- Do your clothes or the chair you are in restrict your breathing?
- Is this room well-ventilated or stuffy?
- Have you, or will you, exercise today?
- Have you eaten a high fat meal today?
- When was the last time you took a break to move?
Good posture, with your back erect, shoulders back and chin level allows your lungs room to expand and maximizes the amount of oxygen absorbed from each breath. Clothes should not interfere with lung expansion OR the circulation of blood to any part of the body. Exercise opens up your blood vessels and speeds oxygen-laden cells on their rounds. High fat meals make your blood sluggish and thick and so slows down oxygen delivery to the cells.
To check on your breathing technique, place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach. Breathe normally for a few moments. Notice your hand movements as you inhale. Which hand rises the most dramatically? If you’re breathing right, it’ll be the one on your stomach. That is called diaphragmatic breathing and that’s the type of breathing that reflects good lung expansion and air exchange. There are some simple exercises that can improve your oxygen levels and mental productivity throughout the day. You can do these every few hours throughout the day and, ideally, try to find some time to do them out in the fresh air several times a day.
- Stand or sit straight
- Exhale deeply
- Draw air back in – feel your stomach expand
- Tighten stomach muscles at the end of your exhale to get the last little bit of air out
- Repeat the process slowly, 5 or 6 times.
You will notice a real improvement in your mental alertness and will positively impact your productivity as you pay attention to these simple and absolutely free ways to improve your body’s oxygen level. So get plenty of fresh AIR for a NEWSTART!
Health by Choice, not by Chance by Drs. Diehl and Ludington
Proof Positive by Dr. Neil Nedley