COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) signs and symptoms can often mimic normal signs of aging. Is your shortness of breath and perpetual cough just a part of life, due to the change in the season, or something more? November is COPD Awareness Month and Renown’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program team, helps us to understand the disease and how to live with it.
COPD is a chronic and progressive lung disease that can affect anyone. In fact, preventable environmental factors including smoking and pollution, are common causes. On the positive side you can slow the progress of this disease by changing lifestyle factors such as:
- Avoiding pollutants
There are also approved medications to help in treating COPD. Often your pulmonologist (lung doctor) or primary care provider can prescribe them. In general, COPD is diagnosed using a lung function test, chest x-rays and/or a CT scan.
What is COPD?
According to the COPD Foundation it is an umbrella term used to describe progressive lung diseases including:
- Emphysema — damage to the small air sacs in the lungs (alveoli).
- Chronic bronchitis — irritation and swelling of bronchial tubes, causing shortness of breath and coughing for long periods of time.
- Asthma (non-reversible) — when asthma medications cannot reduce swelling in the airways.
COPD Risk Factors
Overall smoking is the largest COPD risk factor. And the American Lung Association (ALA) says it accounts for nearly 90 percent of cases. If you are a smoker, it is especially important to seek help and quit.
Other COPD risk factors include:
- Air pollution
- Second-hand smoke
- Chemical, fumes or dust in the workplace
What can you do to protect yourself?
First, it’s best to avoid job-related, or general, air hazards such as smoke, heavy fumes and poor air quality. Second, wear a mask or respirator whenever you are around severe smoke or fumes. Lastly, follow the helpful tips listed below:
Attend Renown Health’s Quit Tobacco Program. It provides support and resources to break the smoking habit and quit smoking completely.
Use natural cleaning products
Many household chemicals, especially those containing bleach, can irritate the lungs.
Stay away from all types of smoke
This includes smoke from fireplaces. Likewise, plan to stay indoors when it is smoky outside or air quality is poor.
Of course it’s never too late to start an exercise program. When exercising your heart pumps, circulating your blood and sending oxygen to every part of your body. Notably it strengthens your lungs, making it easier to breath. Talk to your doctor to see if you are healthy enough to begin exercising.
Eat a healthy diet
Surprisingly what you eat can affect your breathing. The ALA encourages those with COPD to watch their sodium intake, eat smaller, more frequent meals (instead of three large ones), limit high fat foods and drink plenty of water.
Avoid scented products
Perfumes, aerosol sprays and plug-in air fresheners can trigger flare-ups.
Get a flu shot
Renown’s Pulmonary Rehab staff is certified through the American Association for Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR). The program will be applying for accreditation in 2020. Once accredited, it will become the first pulmonary rehab program in Nevada to receive this honor.