Take a deep breath and soak up these facts on the human body’s lungs, the most important organs in the respiratory system.

The lungs are responsible for extracting oxygen from the air we breathe and transferring it to the bloodstream, where it is sent to the cells. The lungs also remove carbon dioxide as a waste gas through exhaling. When we inhale, air travels down the throat, through the larynx, and into the trachea. The trachea has two air passages, or bronchial tubes, with one leading to the left lung and one to the right.

    Lungs are composed of a spongy material that stretches easily, but can still keep its shape without damage. They’re covered with a protective lining known as the pleural tissue.

    Lungs are not mirror images of each other, nor are they even the same size. The right lung is slightly larger than the left, with three lobes, while the left lung has just two lobes. The heart is where the middle lobe of the left lung would be, with a “cardiac notch” for the heart to fit in. Each lobe expands like a balloon when inhaling, deflating when the body exhales. Together, the lungs weight about 2.9 lbs. (1.3 kg). They’re located within the rib cage for protection, and are connected to the spinal cord at the back and the chest bone at the front.

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    Your body’s respiration rate is defined as the number of breaths your lungs take per minute. Normal range is between 12 and 20 breaths per minute, about 20,000 or so breaths a day. The average 50-year-old has taken around 400 million breaths. The average person breathes in about 13 pints of air per minute, yet the body uses just 5% of the oxygen that’s inhaled. The rest is exhaled and the cycle starts again.

Healthy lungs are pinkish-gray, while damaged lungs are darker gray, frequently with black spots. Smoke from cigarettes destroys lung tissue because of the high amounts of tar which are left in the lungs. About 80% of deaths by lung cancer can be attributed to smoking, with smokers up to 30 times more likely to get it than a non-smoker.   

When a baby is still in the womb, the lungs are filled with fluid. About ten seconds after birth, a baby takes it first breath, with the lungs transforming in a matter of seconds, breathing in oxygen for the first time.

    As the cells use oxygen, they produce carbon dioxide, which transfers to the blood. The bloodstream carries it back to the lungs, which remove the CO2 when exhaling. Hypercapnia occurs when a person has too much carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. It can cause dizziness, fatigue, and shortness of breath, as well as an irregular heartbeat, fainting, panic attacks, and seizures. Contributors to this condition include sleep apnea, obesity, and shallow breathing.

    Taking deep breaths is very beneficial to the body, helping the body to relax, to ease stress and anxiety or pain, improve focus, lower blood pressure, and reduce muscle tension.

Bronchitis occurs when the lungs’ large and medium-size airways become inflamed, usually as the result of an infection in the nose, ears, throat, or sinuses, one that makes its way to the airways. The difference between bronchitis and pneumonia is which part of the respiratory system is affected. While bronchitis affects the tubes that carry air to the lungs, pneumonia affects the air sacs, where oxygen passes into the blood, with those sacs filling with fluid.