How to Prevent Respiratory Health Issues


Respiratory health is a complex category influenced by several factors, including genetics, infection history, past exposures, and lifestyle choices. The most common respiratory diseases are asthma, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Bronchitis, and Lung Cancer. 

First, asthma is caused by airway swelling, making normal breathing difficult. It can be exacerbated by allergens or other inhaled molecules. Second, COPD is a group of diseases that limit airflow into the lungs and progressively worsens.

COPD often occurs as a reaction to inhaled irritants such as cigarette smoke. Third, bronchitis is caused by inflammation of the bronchi in the lungs, mostly characterised by a mucousy cough. Bronchitis can develop due to viral infection, toxin exposure, or as a symptom of asthma/COPD.

Finally, lung cancer is a very complex respiratory health disease, and its causes are not always known. The most common carcinogenic sources include cigarette smoke, aerosolized toxins, and other exposures, whose effects may take years to appear. 

Signs and symptoms 

The symptoms of respiratory health issues vary according to disease source, severity, and other health conditions. One of the first signs of a respiratory health problem is difficulty breathing that does not pass after physical exercise or occurs while resting. The second most common respiratory disease symptom is chronic coughing. Coughs are common during cold and flu season, but a cough that persists after several weeks can have a more serious cause. The third symptom of a respiratory health condition is wheezing, occurring when airways are obstructed or inflamed. The final most common one is mild chest pain that occurs when breathing or coughing. 

Talking to your doctor about the frequency and severity of breathing-related symptoms can help determine a potential underlying disease and treatment options. 

Can you reverse this disease? 

The reversibility of respiratory health problems depends on the type and severity of the disease. For example, the most common respiratory health problem, asthma, is perfectly treatable, and most patients often grow out of their symptoms with an appropriate action plan. COPD is also manageable, although not curable due to its progressive nature. However, other diseases like lung cancer, for instance, can be serious and life-threatening. The best way to soothe and prevent the worsening of respiratory problems is to avoid triggers and exposures that can exacerbate symptoms. These triggers can include asthmatic allergens, cigarette smoke, and other irritants associated with working environments or lifestyles. 

Lifestyle factors

The following lifestyle factors have the greatest impact on increasing your risk of this chronic health condition/disease. We will also look at what you can do to reduce your risk from today.


Monitoring nutrition can improve symptoms of respiratory health disease, as well as help to avoid its onset. Nutrition is a modifiable risk factor and can help patients stay proactive in determining their health. In the case of COPD and asthma, mounting evidence suggests that diet changes can significantly decrease the risk of developing these conditions or improve symptoms after diagnosis.1 

First, eating to reduce weight in the case of obesity may help to improve breathing difficulties. Although the mechanism is unclear, studies have shown that being overweight is linked to chronic respiratory symptoms. It is proposed that obesity increases a general state of low-level inflammation within the body and can, therefore, trigger the symptoms associated with airway constriction, including wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing. Furthermore, respiratory health issues are also associated with other conditions related to weight gain, such as diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), and heart disease. Reducing calorie intake and exercising more frequently is a great first step towards losing weight and improving respiratory complications from these comorbidities. Here is a resource for getting started. 

Secondly, eating fruits and vegetables full of antioxidants will likely reduce inflammation. Although these foods will not impact acute inflammation caused by asthma triggers, like peanuts, shellfish, or other ingestible allergens, they may reduce general inflammation associated with chronic respiratory conditions or infection. 

Physical activity 

For many patients with respiratory conditions, vigorous exercise can induce symptoms. This response occurs because breathing often becomes more rapid during physical activity, forcing cold air in and out of the lungs quickly, and irritating airways. The best way to avoid triggering symptoms through exercise is to know your limits. Build your body up towards more vigorous activities, or try yoga, pilates, or other less intense forms of body movement. Although physical activity can exacerbate symptoms in some patients, the opposite also holds true. A lack of physical activity leading to obesity can also result in respiratory health issues. 

As discussed earlier, being overweight can encourage the cellular inflammatory response that causes airway irritation and breathing difficulties. Although intensely vigorous exercise may further trigger symptoms, getting the body moving to reduce body weight could vastly improve respiratory conditions. Furthermore, just as exercise strengthens muscles, it can also strengthen the lungs as they work harder to supply oxygen to the bloodstream during strenuous activity. Having strong lungs has been shown to reduce the risk of many diseases related to respiratory health, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Trying some of the tips listed above, including practising breathwork-oriented activities and building up slowly, can help improve respiratory health. 


As stated previously, weight gain can lead to several conditions that may exacerbate or cause respiratory health problems, including diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Furthermore, losing weight can decrease the stress placed on the lungs to oxygenate the bloodstream. It has been proven that those who reduce their BMI benefit from increased lung function and reduced risk of pulmonary complications.2 That being said, losing weight is not always easy and requires diligence and dedication. The process is also interconnected with other risk factors for respiratory health conditions, such as nutrition and exercise. By adopting simple lifestyle changes, multiple risk factors can be managed. Try some of the tips for exercise and dieting outlined above, and here is a resource for getting started. 


Smoking is perhaps one of the primary risk factors for developing respiratory issues. The act of smoking allows toxic chemicals to fill the lungs and pass into the bloodstream. Even second-hand smoke can vastly increase the risk of pulmonary complications. Furthermore, over 7,000 chemicals enter the body after smoking a single cigarette, and these toxins can affect all organs. These chemicals influence the probability of developing other diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and stroke. 

The primary respiratory diseases associated with smoking are COPD and lung cancer. COPD is characterised by an air sac inflammation response to inhaled toxic particles, while lung cancer develops when the genetic content of pulmonary cells are detrimentally altered by the carcinogens in cigarettes. With that in mind, smoking is addictive and can be conceptualised as a disease on its own. Quitting is not easy, and having the resources and network for support are vital tools for avoiding smoking. Here is a resource for getting started and staying motivated. 


Besides the indirect effects alcohol can have on respiratory health, such as its influence on the development of diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers, alcohol consumption can also directly impact lung capacity. Furthermore, the influence ethanol has on blood circulation can reduce the lungs’ ability to effectively transfer oxygen into the bloodstream. Also, new evidence has shown that 50% of patients hospitalised with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) also suffer from alcohol abuse problems. These respiratory complications occur when fluid seeps into the lungs and is usually accompanied by other forms of trauma. Although ARDS is an extreme example of alcohol’s impact on respiratory health, consuming more units of alcohol per week than recommended can negatively impact one’s risk for other pulmonary diseases, such as COPD, emphysema, etc. 


Sleep is a vital part of general wellbeing, and therefore a lack of sleep can harm the development of respiratory disease or existing issues. Studies have shown that decreased sleep time can reduce immune function, allowing respiratory infections to become more serious. Furthermore, those with existing respiratory diseases may find their symptoms prevent them from getting a restful night’s sleep, effectively creating a feedback loop of worsening symptoms and worsening sleep quality. 

A serious form of sleep-related respiratory disease is sleep apnea, where the airways become partially obstructed during sleep. This condition can come in the form of innocuous snoring or severe choking. Sleep apnea greatly reduces the deepness of a sufferer’s sleep and may increase the severity of other respiratory issues like asthma, COPD, etc. Some common treatments for sleep deprivation include improved exercise habits, adjusting sleeping positions, and oxygen therapy.3 Here is a resource for more information, but speaking to your doctor about severe symptoms can help determine the best option. 

Mental health

Mental health is an important part of general wellbeing and can impact daily life. Furthermore, those already suffering from a disease are far more likely to experience a mental health decline. This phenomenon is especially true in the case of respiratory disease, where nearly 83% of asthmatics report feelings of anxiety and are twice as likely to suffer from depression. Having a condition that seriously impacts the quality of life would take a toll on anyone’s positivity. Try physically scheduling time for yourself into your day or practising breathing exercises typical of yoga or tai-chi. Here is another resource for those who experience anxiety-induced asthma, as well as a more general mental health resource. 


Keeping your emotional health balanced is necessary for your physical health. Self-care is important for overall good health.

  • Forming healthy habits – dedicate one hour a day to doing something you enjoy, such as reading, cooking, or making art. Eventually, you will form a habit, and the hour will become a structured part of your routine. 
  • Setting boundaries – do not be afraid to say no. Setting limits with your time, whether for work, family, or friends, is a great way to build self-confidence and remove stress from being spread too thin. 
  • Get better sleep – a good night’s sleep improves physical and mental wellbeing. Here is a resource for improving sleep habits. 
  • Conclusion on lifestyle factors

Overall, preventing and improving respiratory health is manageable. The best way to proactively manage respiratory health, as well as other conditions that might lead to its decline, is by practising intentional exercise and diet habits. Maintaining a healthy BMI can certainly improve lung function, but mental wellbeing is just as crucial. Furthermore, smoking can have a serious and direct impact on pulmonary disease. Smoking cessation is one of the only ways to prevent the worsening of COPD and reduce lung cancer risk. All of the discussed factors that impact respiratory health are perfectly manageable as long as you know how to deal with them. Speaking with your GP about what treatment options work best for you and sticking to a plan is the best way to monitor and maintain lung health. 

Diagnostic testing

At Klarity we use the latest technology when it comes to diagnostic testing. Our home blood tests give you health insights and personalised recommendations. Find out which test you should take.


  1. Berthon BS, Wood LG. Nutrition and Respiratory Health—Feature Review. Nutrients [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2022 Mar 2]; 7(3):1618–43.
  2. Mafort TT, Rufino R, Costa CH, Lopes AJ. Obesity: systemic and pulmonary complications, biochemical abnormalities, and impairment of lung function. Multidisciplinary Respiratory Medicine [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2022 Mar 2]; 11(1):28. Available from:

Kristen Bowles

Masters of Science - MSc Epidemiology Student, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, England
Kristen graduated as Summa Cum Laude and is now pursuing Masters of Epidemiology in LSHTM.
Experienced in cultural anthropology from the University of St. Andrews, and hopes to continue working in Europe with a special focus on medical mistrust and how these social factors influence health data, equity, and disease spread. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
Klarity / Managed Self Ltd
Alum House
5 Alum Chine Road
Westbourne Bournemouth BH4 8DT
VAT Number: 362 5758 74
Company Number: 10696687

Phone Number:

 +44 20 3239 9818