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10 Facts About The Respiratory System

10 Facts About The Respiratory System
Kevin Cleary

5 Key Takeaways

  1. Respiratory viruses such as Covid-19, RSV, and influenza hamper our ability to breathe properly.
  2. Our respiratory system is where inhaled oxygen makes its way into our bloodstream and to our vital organs.
  3. Muscles that power and control your lungs are also part of the respiratory system.
  4. Not only does your respiratory system introduce oxygen to the body, but it also helps clean out carbon dioxide and other waste gases.
  5. Your respiratory system, when healthy, protects your body from irritants and harmful substances, and HPFY has products to help keep your respiratory system healthy.

 

Who likes breathing? I know I do!! Our respiratory system is not only the critical system that allows us to breathe, but it also provides many other important functions. Yes, when we inhale, it allows us to take in oxygen, and when we exhale, it expels carbon dioxide, but what else does it do? Other functions of our respiratory system include:

  • Allows you to talk and smell
  • Regulates moisture
  • Warms inhaled air
  • Delivers oxygen to your body’s cells

The organs and tissues that make up our respiratory system can become irritated and affect the respiratory system. Disease, age, and viruses/bacteria, along with allergies, asthma, and infection, can all have negative effects on our pulmonary system. Since lung function is critically important to our existence, it is prudent to understand the respiratory system and its components.

Parts of the Respiratory System

The organs/parts of the respiratory system are:

  • Nose and sinuses: Air inhaled through the nose goes through the sinuses and meets the back of your mouth/throat before being inhaled into your lungs. Your nose filters air better due to the cilia in your nostrils.
  • Larynx: Your vocal cords/voicebox is located in your larynx. As you guessed it, this is where your voice comes from.
  • Trachea: This is also known as your windpipe. It leads from your throat area into your chest to your lungs.
  • Bronchial Tubes: These carry oxygen-rich air into each lung.
  • Lungs: Your right lung is divided into three sections, and the right lung is divided into two. This is where nutrients/oxygen get distributed throughout your body.
  • Alveoli: These are air sacs in our lungs that allow the transfer of oxygen into our bloodstream for distribution.

These components of the respiratory system allow for the inhalation of air, the delivery of this air to the lungs, and the removal of oxygen in the air into the bloodstream. Working in conjunction with these parts are your diaphragm (muscle for inhalation/exhalation) and your ribs, which protect your lungs.

10 Facts About Respiratory System 

Yes, our respiratory system is critical to our existence. Not only does it contain more than just your lungs, but it has many parts working together to allow us to breathe properly. Here are 10 other facts about respiratory system - 

1. One lung is larger than the other

This is to accommodate the size of our hearts. Our heart is located on the left side of our body, and the lung is slightly smaller to accommodate this important organ. Your right lung is separated into three different lobes, while your left side is separated into only two. Each load is separated by a fissure. 

2. Lungs can float

Due to the air located in the alveoli, this organ can float in water. Inside each lung are about 30,000 bronchioles, which help air reach the alveoli. Each lung contains approximately 300 million alveoli, which replace carbon dioxide waste in your blood with oxygen. That’s why we can float when we swim!!

3. Our lungs are not sterile/germ-free

The lower respiratory tract can be full of bacteria, even when we are completely healthy. Most of these bacteria got there due to micro-aspiration. Many of these bacteria can be microbes that normally live in our bodies, known as normal flora. These bacteria do not lead to illness/sickness.

4. Our lungs transfer oxygen to our blood

In our lungs, red blood cells containing hemoglobin transfer inhaled oxygen into the bloodstream for distribution throughout the body. This is accomplished by a process called diffusion. Oxygen moves from the alveoli to our blood through capillaries lining the alveolar walls. Once this oxygen gets into the bloodstream, it’s picked up by hemoglobin in red blood cells.

5. Multi-functions of the nose

Yes, our nose lets us smell flowers, but it has other functions. It is a filter, heater, and humidifier for our respiratory system. Turbinates have blood cells that heat inhaled air, and goblet cells secrete mucus to add humidity to this air. This sticky mucus also traps inhaled particles and microbes. Dry winter air can dry out our noses and sinuses, making breathing difficult.

6. You can live with one lung

While living with one lung is possible, it limits your lung capacity and physical ability. You can survive with only one lung since the remaining lung can deliver enough oxygen and remove CO2 to survive. There can be issues; for instance, my paternal grandfather had one lung removed and was unable to cough while choking on food. Unfortunately, this led to his death.

7. Breathing is an involuntary reflex

Fortunately, we don’t need to think about breathing. It is one of our body’s involuntary reflexes. We are triggered to breathe involuntarily by our medulla oblongata, which is part of the brainstem. This is part of the autonomic nervous system. So, let your kids hold their breath. They will start breathing automatically!!

8. Alveoli/Capillaries work together

In your lungs are millions of alveoli, and they are surrounded by blood vessels known as capillaries. Each is only one cell thick in order for gas diffusion to occur. Diffusion allows oxygen inhaled into alveoli to be transferred through capillaries into our blood, where 98.5% is bound to hemoglobin and 1.5% is dissolved in the blood. This is how oxygen gets into our bloodstream.

9. Our diaphragm is important

This thin muscle sheet under our lungs is critical to our breathing. It allows our lungs to expand and contract as we breathe. This curved muscle flattens and contracts as we inhale. It separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity and performs the function of respiration. As a contract, the volume of the thoracic cavity increases, drawing air into the lungs.

10. Breathing removes water

Yes, as we exhale, we expel waste gas, such as carbon dioxide, from our bodies. Also, in this process, we lose water…a lot. At rest, humans can expel 17.5 mL of water per hour, according to a 2012 article in the journal Polish Pneumonology and Allergology. When exercising, you can lose 4x that amount. Just exhale on a mirror and see the moisture condensation for yourself!!

 

When to seek medical attention

With respiratory illnesses prevalent during the cold of winter, you should be aware of symptoms that might require medical attention. You should seek medical attention if:

  • Discolored mucus
  • Shortness of breath
  • Constant cough
  • Fever, body aches, or chills

Keep your respiratory system healthy by eating a balanced diet, exercising, and reducing stress for easier breathing.

References

 

Disclaimer: All content found on our website, including images, videos, infographics, and text were created solely for informational purposes. Our reviewed content should never be used for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment of any medical conditions. Content shared on our websites is not meant to be used as a substitute for advice from a certified medical professional. Reliance on the information provided on our website as a basis for patient treatment is solely at your own risk. We urge all our customers to always consult a physician or a certified medical professional before trying or using a new medical product.

 


HPFY Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary has been a Health Products For You contributor for many years and has a degree in marketing. His health and wellness journey has a very personal meaning and has guided him in his content writing for HPFY.

In 2006, ...

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