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Factors that Affect the Human Gas Exchange System

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  • 0:04 Gas Exchange
  • 0:46 Factors: Exercise
  • 2:14 Factors: Smoking
  • 3:29 Factors: Asthma
  • 4:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has taught high school and college biology and has a master's degree in cancer biology.

This lesson will help you understand the various factors that affect the gas exchange system in our bodies. We'll look at how each factor affects the ability of the lungs to exchange gas and oxygenate the body.

Gas Exchange

Completing chores to receive an allowance from your parents. Giving money to a cashier to buy a pair of shoes. Each of these are incidences of exchanging one thing for something else. There are exchanges that happen continuously in our bodies. One exchange is the gas exchange.

This is the respiratory system where carbon dioxide is released from the lungs into the air, and oxygen is taken into the lungs from the air. This exchange happens in the air sacs of the lungs called the alveoli.

The exchange of gas, or respiration, occurs between 17,280 - 28,800 times a day. Although it's a simple process, several factors such as exercise, smoking, and asthma can affect how this gas exchange happens.

Factors: Exercise

We keep hearing that exercise is good for the body. This is very true when it comes to gas exchange. You may or may not think you're exercising, but playing football, volleyball, or any other sport is exercise for the body. Your body will need more oxygen coming into the body in order to keep the body moving during exercise. You probably notice that you breathe faster and deeper as you exercise. This is your body's way of increasing the amount of oxygen coming in.

When you breathe deeper, then the amount of oxygen filling your lungs, known as lung volume, will increase. Your respiration rate, which is the number of breaths taken within a minute, also increases because you are breathing faster.

Your heart rate increases too when you exercise. We usually have between 60-100 beats a minute. Remember that the heart and lungs work together to get oxygen out to the body. Once oxygen is in the lungs, the heart pumps blood to the lungs for the blood to release its carbon dioxide and pick up oxygen at the site of the alveoli. The blood goes back into the heart where it gets pumped out to the rest of the body. When the blood gets to the organs of the body, another gas exchange takes place. Oxygen is given to the organs, and carbon dioxide is put into the blood.

Both the respiration and heart rate have to increase in order to supply the needed oxygen to the body. If the respiration rate increased, but the heart rate did not, then the usual amount of oxygen would get to the body. If the heart rate increased and the respiration did not, the deoxygenated blood (blood without oxygen) would go out to the body rather than oxygenated blood (blood with oxygen).

Factors: Smoking

Smoking also affects the respiration of the smoker and any person around the smoke. Cigarette smoke damages the alveoli when inhaled. Damaged alveoli are no longer able to participate in gas exchange. We normally have about 300 million alveoli completing gas exchange for us. The high number of alveoli gives us a much larger area for gas exchange to meet the needs of the body. This surface area is decreased when alveoli are damaged by smoking.

Smoking can also lead to the development of lung cancer and heart disease. Lung cancer is a disease that results from an overgrowth of lung tissue that affects the ability to exchange gas. Cancerous alveoli and lung cells do not perform the function of normal alveoli, decreasing the amount of respiration occurring in the lungs.

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