The largest and one of the most complex organs in the human body, the lungs play a pivotal role in the proper function and health of every organ, cell and tissue in the body. That is because the lungs provide the body with oxygen, which is required for all organ functions, including heart functions that are involved in every living activity.
In its healthy state, the lung receives the air that you breathe through your bronchial tubes, or airways, which branch into thousands of smaller tubes called bronchioles, and then again into bunches of tiny air sacs called alveoli. These airways and air sacs are all elastic by nature, and fill up with air as you breathe in and deflate as you breathe out. When air reaches these air sacs, the oxygen in the air passes through the sac walls into the bloodstream by way of small blood vessels (capillaries), while carbon dioxide moves from these blood vessels into the air sacs.
However, a number of outside factors can negatively affect the airways and air sacs and their ability to supply oxygen to the bloodstream. For example, smoking and long-term exposure to other lung irritants can compromise the elasticity of the airways and air sacs and destroy the walls between many of the sacs. The walls of the airways can also become thick and inflamed, while an increase in mucus production may clog them. As a result, less oxygen is produced by the lungs and delivered to the body’s vital organs.
Because oxygen is critical to the survival of all human beings, maintaining healthy lungs is the key to the energy chain that keeps us living.