Breathtaking Facts About The Respiratory System

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It is a well known fact the respiratory system is what helps us breathe keeping us alive.  “Oxygen is inhaled and Carbon di Oxide is exhaled” is that one sentence that has featured more than once in all our biology textbooks with a minimum of 3 paragraphs explaining the process.

Apart from being one of the most important systems, it’s also definitely the most fascinating system in the human body.

Here are a few facts you probably never knew about the respiratory system.

1. The right lung is slightly larger than the left.

The heart is located between the two lungs.  The left lung is thus generally smaller to make room for the protruding left ventricle of the heart.  The left lung has two lobes while the right has three. Though smaller, the left lung has the same number of bronchi as the right.

2. The surface area of lungs are almost the same as a tennis court!

The surface area of the lungs including the alveoli and airways when laid out measures to about 70 to 100 square meters necessary for gaseous exchange that takes place in the lungs.

3. We lose half a litre of water everyday breathing.

While exhaling Carbon di oxide, water is also lost from the body in the form of water vapour.

4. Your brain controls how fast your lungs draw in air.

When you sleep, your brain makes your lungs work slower. While exercising however, breathing rate and hence intake of oxygen is increased.  This is because, while exercising your blood capillaries extend allowing more blood to pass through your lungs quickly.

5. Breathing rate is faster in women and children.

The volume of lungs in women and children is much smaller than that of men.  To increase the inhalation of oxygen and exhalation of Carbon Di Oxide, the overall breathing rate is increased.

6. The average rate of breathing is dependent upon age.

A newborn’s normal breathing rate is about 40 times each minute and may slow down to 20 times each minute when the baby is asleep.  It has also been observed that people under the age of 30 take double the amount of oxygen compared to an 80 year old.

7. Yawning brings more Oxygen to lungs.

Yawning is a result of your lungs not breathing in enough oxygen from the air resulting in a shortage of oxygen present in the body. This shortage of oxygen sends the brain a message causing you to yawn and take in the extra oxygen required.

8. Some people can hold their breath for more than 20minutes.

While most of us can hold our breath for only 30 seconds to one minute, there are some people who can hold their breath for more than 20 minutes. The current world record is 22 minutes. This requires a lot of practice as holding your breath could lead to brain damage or death.  Pranayama is a yoga exercise that helps improve breath control.

9. Hiccups are caused due to food on the epiglottis.

The epiglottis is a thin, cartilaginous structure that covers the glottis preventing entry of food into the trachea. The trachea is the tube that connects the pharynx and larynx to the lungs. When the food gets trapped on the epiglottis, it results in hiccups to direct the food into the digestive tract of the system.

10. Breathing helium changes your voice.

Voice is a result of vibration of vocal folds that produce sound waves that travel through air. Helium is lighter than air. When you inhale helium, the waves travel faster than in air and consequently the wavelength increases. However, on the way to the ear, it travels through air and the wavelength becomes normal again. This shift in frequency appears as a high pitched voice.

11. The floating lung test is used as an autopsy method to determine if a baby was stillborn or not.

The lungs are the only organs that can float in water due to the presence of air in them. The lungs of a baby that was born alive float in water in contrast to that of a stillborn baby.

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