As part of National COPD Awareness Month, the COPD Learn More Breathe Better campaign encourages people and all those interested in raising COPD awareness to host events, lead discussions, and conduct other outreach to help people across the country take the first step toward improving the lives of those with COPD.
Caring for someone with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can be complicated. While an estimated 30 million Indians suffer from COPD, several additional millions likely have COPD and don’t even know it. But, with early diagnosis and treatment, people with COPD can improve their quality of life and begin to breathe a little easier.
Ask the Expert
Is it possible to prevent COPD?
The best way to prevent COPD is to not smoke cigarettes. If someone is already a smoker, it is important to quit smoking. People who have COPD and quit smoking usually have a marked reduction in the progression of the disease.
How can I tell if I have COPD?
COPD is diagnosed with a simple breathing test called spirometry, which can detect COPD before symptoms present. The hallmark of COPD is that the air leaves the lung slower than normal during forced expiration.
How is COPD treated?
Smoking cessation, immunization against influenza and pneumonia, and the use of various bronchodilator medications are effective treatments. In advanced stages, oxygen may be required, and in some cases, lung transplantation or surgical removal of localized emphysema may be employed.
Why Everyone Should Care About COPD Awareness Month?
Given that COPD affects 30 million diagnosed adults and millions more may be undiagnosed, you probably know someone with the condition. But this isn’t the only reason you should care about COPD. Cigarette smoke exposure is a major cause of COPD, but for years, physicians thought most individuals reach adulthood with a relatively “healthy” pair of lungs and that it was adult exposure alone that led to the majority of lung function loss. Recently, however, we’ve made a rather important discovery.
When looking at large populations of individuals over long periods of time, a significant proportion of individuals never reach adulthood with fully “healthy” lungs, to begin with, making them even more vulnerable to the toxic effects of factors such as tobacco smoke exposure during adulthood.
This means that something is going seriously wrong with lung development much earlier for a much larger proportion of the population than we had previously thought. Estimates suggest over 300 million persons around the globe live with COPD. It could be that millions of individuals are having their lung growth impaired somewhere during the prenatal, childhood, and adolescent periods.
What exactly is responsible for these accumulated insults to the lungs over time? It is likely a multitude of factors, although the contribution from tobacco smoke is still significant. One of the biggest issues we face in trying to understand this as either parents concerned about the lung health of our children or as individuals trying to preserve our own lung health is the fact that we never perform lung function testing as part of routine care in medicine.
Some new research suggests peak fitness levels in young adulthood are also associated with lung function later in life, so if you’re not exercising regularly, now is a good time to start. If you or your children are experiencing prolonged shortness of breath or cough, don’t wait to talk to your healthcare provider about having your lungs evaluated. The bottom line is that it is never too late to begin investing in your respiratory health.
Whether you are part of a large organization or an individual wanting to learn more to help yourself or others, there is a wealth of information out there to advise and assist those who may be affected by COPD.
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