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The 7 parts of the lungs (and their functions)

Parts of the human lungs

The lungs are the organs in charge of oxygenating the blood and eliminating carbon dioxide thanks to the coordinated action of different structures.

We breathe about 21,000 times a day, circulating about 8,000 liters of air . Throughout our lives, therefore, our lungs will have made us breathe in and breathe out more than 600 million times and more than 240 million liters of air will have passed through them.

They are continuously working. The lungs never stop since all the other organs of the body depend on their operation, since they are responsible for oxygenate the blood and eliminate carbon dioxide, which is toxic to cells.

Any disease that affects these organs is serious, since all the components that make up the lungs must work in coordination and be in perfect health.

We breathe about 21,000 times a day, circulating about 8,000 liters of air . Throughout our lives, therefore, our lungs will have made us breathe in and breathe out more than 600 million times and more than 240 million liters of air will have passed through them.

They are continuously working. The lungs never stop since all the other organs of the body depend on their operation, since they are responsible for oxygenate the blood and eliminate carbon dioxide, which is toxic to cells.

Any disease that affects these organs is serious, since all the components that make up the lungs must work in coordination and be in perfect health.

Air enters the body through the nose or mouth. This air then passes through the pharynx, larynx, and trachea, which descends until it bifurcates and enters each of the lungs.

They are a potential route of entry for many pathogens into the body, so the respiratory tract is covered with a mucosa that traps particles from the external environment so that they do not enter the lungs, as they are very sensitive to dust and germs.

All these threats can endanger the functionality of the lungs and cause respiratory diseases such as bronchitis, pneumonia, lung cancer, etc. to develop. Therefore, avoiding tobacco and preventing exposures to pathogens is essential so that these disorders do not appear, which can become serious.

What are the 7 parts that make up the lungs?

The lungs are two pink sacs that occupy much of the rib cage . The two lungs are not perfectly symmetrical to each other: the left is slightly smaller than the right as it must share space with the heart.

The lungs are the center of the respiratory system and its anatomy is made up of different structures that work together to allow gas exchange. Let’s see them.

Trachea

1. Trachea

The trachea is the airway that begins in the larynx and descends vertically to the fourth thoracic vertebra, approximately at the level of the heart.

Despite not being exactly a part of the lung, it is important to take it into account since it bifurcates in two to enter each of the lungs, giving rise to the right and left main bronchus.

2. Lobes

The lung lobes are the well-defined sections into which each of the lungs are divided . They are a kind of folds in the membrane that covers these organs: the pleura. We will discuss this lung structure later.

These folds are important for correct breathing, because thanks to them the lungs can expand when breathing in air. In addition, at the medical level they are very useful to study the physiology of these organs.

The right lung is divided into three lobes: upper, middle, and lower. The left one, being smaller since it must share space with the heart, only has two lobes: lower and upper.

3. Bronchi

The bronchi are extensions of the trachea that penetrate the lungs and are responsible for making air reach the structures that we will see below .

These bronchi are like the trunk of a tree, in each lung they branch out into other smaller “branches”: the bronchioles.

4. Bronchioles

The bronchioles are the branches of the bronchi . Each time they are getting narrower and narrower to allow the exchange of gases that occurs at the ends of these, at the end of the journey.

There are about 300 thousand bronchioles in each lung and they are still respiratory conduits that carry air to the following structures: the pulmonary alveoli.

5. Alveoli

The alveoli are small air sacs that are found at the end of the bronchioles and it is where gas exchange occurs . The wall of these alveoli is made up of capillaries, thus relating to the blood vessels

They therefore allow the air to come into contact with the blood and gas exchange can take place. The respiration itself occurs in these alveoli, and all the other structures of the lungs work so that the air reaches these small sacs correctly.

When we inhale air, the alveoli enrich the blood with oxygen since it passes into the blood by simple diffusion through the capillary walls. Once in the blood, the red blood cells, which arrive loaded with carbon dioxide generated as waste after the cells have consumed the oxygen that had reached them, bind to oxygen since they have more affinity for it than for carbon dioxide. carbon.

To bind to oxygen, red blood cells must release carbon dioxide, which is collected by the alveoli and is subsequently removed to the outside through the process of expiration.

This gas exchange process happens without stopping and it is the alveoli that really allow all the cells in our body to have oxygen and that the body is not poisoned by the carbon dioxide generated by these cells as waste.

In fact, when a person lung-dives, they must release carbon dioxide since it quickly begins to cause dizziness if it is not eliminated from the body.

6. Pleura

The pleura is the structure that covers each lung , protecting its interior and only with two openings: those through which the two main bronchi enter.

The pleura is made up of connective tissue, that is, it is a cell membrane with the function of supporting the internal parts of the lung. In turn, it is covered by a mucosa that allows the lungs to remain lubricated.

This structure serves as structural support for the lungs, allows them to expand and contract, prevents friction with the rib cage and absorbs shocks and trauma so that the bronchi, bronchioles and alveoli are not damaged.

7. Diaphragm

The diaphragm is a structure that is not part of the lungs but is very important to ensure its correct functionality.

It is a dome-shaped muscle located below the lungs that contracts during inspiration to facilitate the process of these respiratory organs and relaxes during expiration.

It is, therefore, an essential muscle for breathing to take place correctly and it also keeps the lung structures in their correct location.

How can I keep my lungs healthy?

That the lungs work properly is, as we have seen, vital to ensure good health throughout the body. All these structures must be healthy to allow gas exchange, but being exposed to the external environment, they are very susceptible to suffering from different conditions.

There are many different lung diseases , both of the airways and of the lung tissue and circulatory system. The best ways to ensure good respiratory health are as follows:

1. No smoking

Smoking not only greatly increases the risk of developing lung cancer, we also damage the protective mucosa of the lungs and hinder the functionality of the alveoli. Passive smokers, those who inhale tobacco smoke when living with smokers, can also suffer from problems of this type.

2. Avoid contamination

Although it is somewhat difficult, you have to try not to be exposed to air pollutants, especially carbon dioxide. It may seem that the situation in cities is alarming, but the truth is that in developed countries, pollution rates are not too high. However, long-term exposure to airborne toxins should be monitored.

3. Perform physical exercise

Physical activities, in addition to preventing many heart diseases, strengthen the lungs. This means that when we are at rest, the lungs do not have to work as much, as they are used to making efforts. With sport we enter all the muscles, and the lungs are no exception.

4. Monitor your diet

Studies show that diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish are very beneficial for lung health. This is especially important for people with asthma and other conditions, as eating a proper diet can greatly improve their quality of life.

5. Do not breathe through your mouth

Breathing through the mouth is a very common mistake. You have to breathe through your nose, as its villi are a filter that prevents the entry of unwanted particles into the lungs. If we breathe through the mouth, we are skipping the first barrier of protection of the respiratory system.

Bibliographic references

  • Wahlstedt, R. (2019) “Anatomy of the Lung”. Liberty University.
  • Tomashefski, JF, Farver, CF (2009) “Anatomy and Histology of the Lung”. Dail and Hammar’s Pulmonary Pathology.
  • Less, N., Soni, N. (2014) “Respiratory Physiology”. Clinical Intensive Care Medicine.

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