Bob was my mentor and friend. He used to tell me we are all “penciled in”. Bob was right. He died from lung cancer. The good news was Bob lived a great life. Bob accomplished a lot, loved his family, and was well respected.

Don was a classy friend that flew model airplanes and was a great craftsman. Everyone was Don’s friend. He died from lung cancer.

Elmer Goeschel was my father-in-law. He was like another father. I remember him sitting on the patio smoking a cigarette and telling me, “we all have to die from something.” Elmer died from aggressive lung cancer. Other than his lung issues, Elmer was very healthy and maybe could have lived another 20 years. Our family would have enjoyed those extra years with him.

The list goes on of friends that have died from lung cancer or other avoidable deaths. We truly are “penciled in”, but are we doing all we can to live longer lives? The reality is there is more we can do, but some things are difficult. Weight loss is a great example.

Zig Ziglar, possibly the best motivational speaker of all time, spoke about his journey to lose weight. He joked that in 24 years he “lost over 1000 lbs. total” but put it back on after each weight loss. Zig Ziglar made a conscious decision to lose 37 lbs. He wasn’t successful in losing the weight until he set the goal to lose it and keep it off. Zig Ziglar succeeded!

I too struggled with losing weight and maybe winning the battle. This time it seems different since I set dedicated goals. For instance, Deb and I take walks for over three miles almost every day. A side benefit is it gives us time to spend together. We are eating healthier and exercising more. It’s becoming a habit that’s working. I can feel the difference.

Getting healthier by eating better has its challenges. Dining out is especially difficult since so many foods are tempting, and portions are often oversized. Bob used to also tell me, “Nobody ever said it would be easy.” Bob was talking about other things, but that saying can be applied to so many things like weight loss.

Something that can be easy is improving the overall conditions of your lungs. It takes a dedicated effort, similar to deciding to lose weight. The first thing is to understand the problem. Then set the goals. Then make a conscious effort to change direction.

The main problem our lungs encounter is being exposed to significant levels of contaminants. We typically can’t see them unless it’s obvious like dirty smoke coming out of tailpipes or something of that nature. Most contaminants are too small for the naked eye to see. Carbon monoxide, radon, pollens, chemical off-gassing, pet dander, and lead fumes, are just some of the hundreds of invisible contaminants to avoid.

Since we’ve identified the problem, let’s set goals. Average lungs are capable of handling low levels of contaminants that we can call the threshold. Above that threshold, higher levels of contaminants cause lungs and organs to break down more quickly or become diseased.

High levels of pollen exposure are probably the best contaminant example since approximately 30% of the population is affected. Pollen levels have increased dramatically over the last 40 years and could double by 2040. Pollen is just one of many contaminants. What can we do?

We can start by setting goals to reduce thresholds. What level of contaminants is acceptable? The right answer is no level of contaminants is truly safe, so our goal needs to be to reduce contaminants to the lowest levels possible to reduce that threshold level. What can we control?

It’s important to control the quality of air in our homes. Closing windows and avoiding the outdoors during high pollen level times will help somewhat. The best solution to reduce threshold levels is to install an air filtration system that removes contaminants. Lennox and Trane have filtration systems that remove 95% to 99% of contaminants. Fiberglass and pleated filters remove only 40% to 70% of the contaminants!

Our lungs also need good air quality at the right humidity level year-round. That requires having a good service maintenance plan on your cooling system to reduce humidity levels in the summer and a quality whole-house humidifier in the winter.

Common sense tells us we can slow down death if we take control of our lives and make responsible choices. Why not feel better and live longer?

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