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Your Body: The Missing Manual by Matthew MacDonald

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Chapter 6. Your Lungs

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat 30,000 times.

That doesn’t make for a riveting diary entry. But from your lungs’ viewpoint, every day is pretty much the same. You go about your daily life. Your lungs process lungful after lungful of air. The result? Whether you need to climb a flight of stairs, sing an aria, or create a farm full of balloon animals, you can trust your lungs to supply all the breath you need.

Like your heart, your lungs drive one of the ceaseless rhythms of your body. Their quiet pattern of inhalation and exhalation starts with your first, gasping breath as a newborn, and continues unbroken until your last, ragged breath on your deathbed. In between is everything that matters.

In this chapter, you’ll discover how your lungs collect the oxygen you need to turn food into fuel. You’ll study the art of good breathing, and learn how to project your voice and stop snoring. Then you’ll explore your upper airways, consider the benefits of nose breathing, and learn to love your nasal mucus. Finally, you’ll meet a few of the dangers that threaten your respiratory system, from tobacco smoke to asthma.

The Respiratory System

Every minute, you inhale 10 to 20 times. The process is automatic, unconscious, and impossible to override for more than a few minutes.

The reason you spend so much time sucking up air is obvious—you need the oxygen it contains to live. But what, exactly, makes oxygen so vital to your body’s health? To find the answer, you need to revisit your body’s ...

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