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3. Avoid colds, flu, and bronchitis.

A simple cold can hurt your lungs when you have AAT deficiency. Prevention is your best defense. Wash your hands often, and carry hand sanitizer in case you can't wash your hands. Get a yearly flu shot, and ask your doctor how often you need the pneumonia vaccine.

Be germ-smart:

  • Shopping malls and movie theaters can be germ magnets. Go during off-hours, when crowds are smaller.
  • Visit with children when you know everyone is healthy. Take a rain check if someone comes down with a cold.
  • During cold and flu season, avoid busy airports and the confines of an airplane by driving to your destination instead of flying, if it's practical.
  • At the doctor's office or hospital, you can swab arm rests and door handles with an antibacterial wipe before touching them. Don't touch the magazines.

Call your doctor right away if you think you're coming down with a cold. Your doctor may be able to help prevent an infection in your lungs. Look for a fever, more coughing or shortness of breath, and changes in the color or thickness of phlegm.

4. Get regular exercise.

Exercise can make a big difference in keeping your lungs healthy. "In general," Metcalf says, "you want to remain as active as you are able."

Upper-body exercises and walking or bike riding are great ways to maintain lung health.

If you're not active now, tell your doctor before you start a new exercise plan. Start off slowly, with even just a few minutes a day, and build intensity as your endurance and strength improve.

5. Watch your weight and your diet.

A balanced diet with plenty of fruits and veggies helps keep all of you healthy, including your lungs.

One way to lower blood pressure and lose weight is the DASH diet. Or cut out processed foods, says J. Michael Petway, MD, a lung expert in Cumming, Ga. You'll eat much less sodium.

Protein is important for lung health. Tofu, beans, nuts, and Greek yogurt fit the bill. They also tend to cost less and are less fatty than red meat.

Eden advises getting plenty of vitamin D, which also promotes lung health. Always talk to your doctor before taking a supplement.