How Lungs Work

What Are The Lungs?

Lungs are the organs in your chest that allow your body to take in oxygen from the air. They are also primarily responsible for removing carbon dioxide from your body.

The lungs’ intake of oxygen and removal of carbon dioxide is called gas exchange. Gas exchange is the main aspect of breathing, which is the most vital function of life. The lungs are part of a group of organs that help you breathe. This group of organs is called the respiratory system.

Why Are Lungs Important?

Every single cell in your body needs oxygen to survive. The air we breathe contains oxygen as well as many other gasses. Your lungs facilitate the distribution of oxygen throughout the body. Every cell in your body exchanges oxygen for carbon dioxide, which is then carried back to your lungs where it is removed from the bloodstream and then exhaled. Your lungs and the respiratory system automatically perform this vital process.

The Respiratory System

The respiratory system can be broken down into three main components; namely, the airways, lungs and blood vessels, and muscles and bones.

lungs-graphic

Airways

  • Sinuses are hollow spaces in skull above and below your eyes that are connected to your nose through small openings. Sinuses help to regulate the temperature and humidity of inhaled air.
  • The Nose is the primary entrance for outside air into the respiratory system. There are thousands of hairs lining the nose’s wall that are part of an intricate cleaning and filtration system.
  • The Mouth is the secondary entrance for outside air. We use our mouth to breathe mainly when our nasal passages are blocked by a cold or during heavy exercise.
  • The Throat collects incoming air from your nose and mouth then passes it downward to the windpipe.
  • The Windpipe is the passage leading from your throat to your lungs.
  • The windpipe splits into the two main Bronchial Tubes, one for each lung, which then further divides again into each lobe of your lungs. These, in turn, split further into bronchioles.

Lungs and Blood Vessels

  • Both your left and right lung are divided into Lobes. The left lung is divided into two lobes, while the right lung is divided into three lobes. Each lobe is like a balloon filled with sponge-like tissue.
  • The Pleura are two membranes that surround each lobe of the lungs and separate your lungs from your chest wall. One membrane is continuous, while the other is folded on itself.
  • Your bronchial tubes are lined with Cilia, which are tiny hairs that move like waves.
  • The cilia’s wave-like movement carries Mucus upwards and out into your throat, where it is either coughed up or swallowed. Mucus captures most of the dust, germs, and other unwanted matter that has invaded your lungs. You get rid of this matter when you cough, sneeze, clear your throat or swallow.
  • The smallest branches of the bronchial tubes are called At the end of bronchioles we find air sacs called Alveoli, which are the destination of breathed-in air.
  • Within the walls of the alveoli are blood vessels called Capillaries. Blood passes through the capillaries, entering through your Pulmonary Artery and leaving via your Pulmonary Vein. While in the capillaries, blood gives off carbon dioxide through the capillary wall into the alveoli and takes up oxygen from air in the alveoli.

Muscles and Bones

  • Your Diaphragm is an incredibly strong wall of muscle that separates your chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. By moving downward, it creates suction in the chest, thus drawing in air and expanding the lungs.
  • Ribs are bones that support and protect your chest cavity. Though they are rigid, they move slightly to facilitate your lungs expansions and contractions.

Keeping Lungs Healthy

Your lung capacity will decline as you age. However, you can keep them healthy by following a good diet and exercising regularly.

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