The official blog of the Lung Institute.
One of the many challenges of living with a chronic lung disease is low blood-oxygen levels. When the organs, cells and tissues of the body do not receive enough oxygen, hypoxia can occur. Having a chronic lung disease can increase your risk of developing hypoxia. We’re here to help you better understand low blood oxygen and how it affects the body.
What is hypoxia and why is it dangerous?
Hypoxia, sometimes referred to as hypoxemia, is a below-normal level of oxygen in the blood, often experienced by people with breathing or circulation problems. To measure hypoxia, a blood sample measuring the arterial blood gas may be performed, or it can be estimated by measuring oxygen saturation in the blood using a pulse oximeter.
What are the signs and symptoms of hypoxia or low blood oxygen levels?
- Frequent cough
- Choking sensation
- Waking up out of breath
- Bluish discoloration of the skin
- Shortness of breath while resting
- Severe shortness of breath after physical activity
Low blood oxygen levels and lung disease
Chronic lung diseases, such as COPD, emphysema and chronic bronchitis, cause breathing difficulty and are characterized by the restriction of airflow. Restricted airflow increases the risk of developing hypoxia.
What are the complications of hypoxia or low blood oxygen?
Although hypoxia induced by chronic lung disease hinders breathing, it affects more than the lungs. If you find it difficult to inhale, or to receive adequate amounts of oxygen, your blood becomes oxygen deprived—a serious situation. All organs, tissues and cells in the body need oxygen, so taking action to ensure adequate oxygen intake is important.
What is oxygen therapy?
Many doctors prescribe supplemental oxygen or oxygen therapy for people with lung diseases who aren’t getting enough oxygen. The goal of oxygen therapy is to help you receive enough oxygen.
What is a normal blood oxygen level, and how can I improve my oxygen levels?
Normal blood oxygen levels are greater than 95 percent, and oxygen levels below 90 percent are considered low blood oxygen, suggesting hypoxemia.
There are many ways to help you improve your oxygen levels. You could try adding plants such as the areca palm, snake plant, money plant or gerbera daisy to your home to naturally increase oxygen, or try natural air purifiers, such as salt lamps, peace lilies and bamboo charcoal.
Staying calm and practicing deep breathing exercises can lower stress levels and improve oxygen levels. When you’re relaxed, it’s easier to breathe, so consider giving meditation, yoga, writing in a journal or positive thinking exercises a try.
Exercise is important for everyone, especially for people with lung diseases. Even gentle forms of exercise such as Tai Chi and walking can improve your oxygen levels and boost your exercise tolerance.
Drinking enough water is a simple way to increase your blood oxygen levels. Water hydrates the body, thereby helping to increase the volume of blood available for the lungs to oxygenate.
A healthy diet can also improve your oxygen levels. Using herbs instead of salt can reduce bloating while still giving your food flavor. You can also try eating fresh, steamed vegetables such as spinach, potatoes, green beans and carrots. Remember to eat plenty of lean protein, too. Before trying a new diet, exercise or treatment plan, always discuss it with your doctor.