Did you know that the maximum amount of air your lungs can hold is about 6 liters? That is about three large soda bottles. Your lungs mature by the time you are about 20-25 years old. After about the age of 35, it is normal for your lung function to decline gradually as you age. Normally, this can make breathing slightly more difficult as you get older. If you notice any sudden difficulties in breathing or shortness of breath, talk to your doctor immediately. This could be a sign of lung disease and not the normal process of aging.
What Is Total Lung Capacity?
The total lung capacity (TLC) is the most air that you can inhale into your lungs. It is made up of the following:
- Tidal volume (TV): the usual amount of air that you breathe in and out of your lungs with a normal breath
- Inspiratory Reserve Volume (IRV): additional air that you can force into your lungs after you breathe in the tidal volume
- Expiratory reserve volume (ERV): after you breathe out normally, the ERV is additional air that you can force out
- Residual volume (RV): the air that remains in your lungs after you force out as much as possible
How Is Lung Capacity Measured?
Spirometry is a diagnostic test that provides different measures of lung capacity. It is very often used to diagnose chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) or asthma. Moreover, spirometry results are also used to see if your breathing has improved after treatment for a lung condition.
Some examples of spirometry measurements are:
- Forced vital capacity: the maximum amount of air you can forcibly exhale from your lungs after fully inhaling. It is about 80 percent of total capacity, or 3.8 liters, because some air remains in your lungs after you exhale. Forced vital capacity can decrease by about 0.2 liters per decade, even for healthy people who have never smoked.
- Forced expiratory volume (FEV1): the amount of air you can exhale with force in 1 second. FEV1 declines 1 to 2 percent per year after about the age of 25. This actually may not sound like much but adds up over the course of a lifetime.
Can I Improve my Lung Capacity?
Yes! Lung function cannot be improved. However, lung capacity may be improved. Remember to always follow the advice and guidance of your doctor. Here are some easy steps for increasing lung capacity that may help:
1. Take more Vitamin D
Some studies show that of those who increase their intake of Vitamin D in conjunction with standard rehabilitation, many show improvement in their ability to exercise and in respiratory strength. Vitamin D helps reduce inflammation, which is a key issue for people with COPD.
2. Diaphragmatic breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing engages the diaphragm, which is supposed to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to breathing. This is particularly helpful in people with COPD, as the diaphragm isn’t as effective in these individuals and could be strengthened. It’s best used when feeling rested. If you have COPD, ask your doctor to show you how to use this exercise for best results.
3. Keep a Clean Home
Dust and other allergens can cause more frequent flare-ups. Support your lungs by keeping your home as clean as possible. Consider removing items that collect dust from your home, such as curtains and tablecloths. Wash your sheets at high temperatures, and dust regularly. Indoor air purifiers are another great way to improve the quality of air inside of your home.
Practice breathing exercises as they are a great way to help your lungs. Start in a relaxed posture, so you’re able to breathe in and out more easily. Always consult your doctor if you notice that you have some respiratory problems!