What Are the Characteristics of a Healthy Respiratory System?

Erik J.J. Goserud

The characteristics of a healthy respiratory system rely on the general health of each structure involved as well as sufficient functioning of the system as a whole. The respiratory system is responsible for garnering and transferring gasses into and out of the body, without which humans could not survive. For this reason, maintaining your respiratory system is of paramount importance to sustaining life.

The human respiratory system, showing the trachea, bronchioles, and lungs.
The human respiratory system, showing the trachea, bronchioles, and lungs.

There are scores of anatomical structures involved in the complexities of gas transfer, but in order to understand the respiratory system, it is easiest to outline a few key players. The mouth and nose are the connections of this system to the outside world. People obtain oxygen necessary for cell life and give off poisonous metabolic by-products through interaction with the environment. After gas enters the nose and mouth, it transfers into the lungs, where tiny sacs called alveoli fill with this rich air. Gas transfer takes place in these vascular sacs, where oxygen enters the blood, through which it will reach the organs, cells, and tissues of the body, while carbon dioxide is dished off to the lungs for exhalation into the environment.

A human respiratory system.
A human respiratory system.

If any of these basic structures are damaged, then it is difficult to maintain a healthy respiratory system. There may be numerous factors that contribute to the degradation of these structures, including smoke inhalation and genetic disorders. A number of chronic problems, such as cystic fibrosis, affect the respiratory system, often in a life-threatening manner. A more common compromise of a healthy respiratory system is asthma, which causes inflammation of the bronchi — tubes connecting the mouth to the lungs — as well as other structures important to respiration.

Inhalation of smoke, via purposeful or secondary measures, can also be detrimental to a healthy respiratory system. This can cause a variety of negative conditions, including the very fatal lung cancer. There are also measures to be taken to improve respiratory health, such as choosing a healthy environment, refraining from smoking, and exercising regularly.

Choosing a healthy environment can help improve air quality, which over time contributes to healthy gas exchange. Quitting or never beginning to smoke can also help develop a healthy respiratory system. This is easier said than done; however, a number of therapeutic and pharmacological mechanisms are available to help smokers stop this damaging habit. Exercise can also improve the cardiovascular system in ways that increase the efficiency of gas exchange. There are also specialists who are available for consult regarding maintaining a health respiratory system.

The diaphragm's main function is to control breathing.
The diaphragm's main function is to control breathing.

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Discussion Comments

candyquilt

My uncle was hospitalized several years ago because of a cyst in his lung. The doctor said that pet hair had caused it.

So I guess for a healthy respiratory system, we have to keep all foreign particles out.

discographer

@ysmina-- Cigarette smoke damages alveoli and cilia on the lungs. The alveoli sacs help you breathe and the cilia keep the lungs clean. After these have been damaged by smoking, the lungs can no longer function properly. It becomes difficult to breathe and the lung is unable to regenerate itself. Eventually, other organs in the body also start getting less oxygen because of the damage done to the lungs.

The sad part is that most people are unaware of this damage until it has already been done. When someone first starts smoking, they can't feel the damage. If a smoker has started to have dry coughs, shortness of breath and wheezing when climbing stairs or exercising, it means that the respiratory system is already damaged.

But it's never too late to quit smoking. Our body is very miraculous. If we allow it, the cells in our respiratory system might eventually begin to renew once again.

ysmina

How does smoking damage the respiratory system? What exactly does it do?

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