Are Your Lungs Trying to Tell You Something?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a highly preventable disease, and yet it claims one life every four minutes in the United States. COPD is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., yet 12 million people may have it and not even know it. COPD is not one single disease but an umbrella term for several diseases (including emphysema and chronic bronchitis) that cause limitations in lung airflow.

LINK: American Lung Association presentation on how your lungs work

Lung damage caused by COPD is irreversible, but if diagnosed early, one can still live an active life. World COPD Day 2013, which takes place on November 20, aims to raise awareness about COPD and respiratory health. The theme of World COPD Day 2013 is: “It’s Not Too Late.” This positive message emphasizes the meaningful actions people can take to improve their respiratory health at any stage.

LINK: Your Lungs & Respiratory System: Resources & Activities for Kids

Main Risk Factors for COPD

  • Tobacco smoking
  • Air pollution
  • Occupational dusts and chemicals

COPD Symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath, especially during physical activities
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • Clearing your throat first thing in the morning, due to excess mucus in your lungs
  • A chronic cough that produces sputum that may be clear, white, yellow or greenish
  • Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds (cyanosis)
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Lack of energy
  • Unintended weight loss (in later stages)

Management of COPD

  • Quit smoking
  • Exercise
  • Bronchodilator medications
  • Oxygen

Oftentimes, early damage doesn’t show up on chest X-rays and people attribute their shortness of breath to something else. A COPD diagnosis should be considered in anyone over the age of 35 to 40 who has shortness of breath, a chronic cough, sputum production, or frequent winter colds and a history of exposure to risk factors for the disease. If you think you are at risk, the American Lung Association urges you to ask your doctor about a simple breathing test called spirometry, which can detect the early stages of lung damage.

To learn more about COPD, visit:
American Lung Association
Breathe Easy Arizona
Center for Disease Control

World COPD Day takes place each year on the second or third Wednesday in November, and is organized by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) to improve awareness and care of COPD around the world.

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