November is COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) Awareness Month, and there is a global COPD Campaign to challenge those with difficulty breathing to set personal goals to bring about positive changes in their daily life. During the month of November, the campaign also seeks to raise general public awareness about to how to prevent the condition and how it can affect your life if you develop it. The number of people living with the COPD across the world is estimated at an astounding 210 million. Chances are you or someone you know has the disease and may not even know it.
What is COPD?
COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a lung condition that makes it difficult for people to breathe because airflow in and out of the lungs is restricted. COPD is used to describe some conditions that cause breathing difficulties and usually gets worse over time and can be life threatening.
There are various states used to describe the condition: State 1: mild, Stage 2: moderate, State 3: severe, Stage 4: very severe. Once the condition has reached stage 3 or 4, your quality of life can be significantly affected. It’s never too late to make a change and raising awareness of the causes and symptoms is essential for the overall health and well-being of society.
What causes COPD?
Tobacco smoking – Not only does tobacco smoking lead to breathing difficulty but the inhalation of secondhand smoke does as well. If you are a smoker, those around you exposed the second-hand smoke are also at a health risk. This also includes cigarettes, pipes, and cigars.
1. Outdoor pollution – Traffic pollution
2. Indoor pollution – Open fires, organic cooking fuel
3. Occupational hazards – Chemical fumes or building dust
4. Genetics – The COPDGene™ Study is one of the largest studies ever funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes For Health. Research is demonstrating there are susceptibilities to COPD based on genes with people who have not been exposed to the known risk factors.
While this is not a comprehensive list of causes that may lead to the disorder, it is a general guideline you can take into consideration with regards to what you are exposed to in your day to day life.
If you believe you may be at risk, speak to a doctor as testing for the condition is quite easy using spirometry. During the test, you take a deep breath and blow into a spirometer. The device measures how much air you can blow out and how quickly you can empty your lungs. If you engage in activities that increase your risk for COPD, get checked next time you are at the doctor. While there are treatments available, there is no cure. The earlier you find out, the better you can manage the condition.
How does a COPD and breathing difficulty affect your life?
All day and night you breathe, and most of the time, you probably aren’t aware of your breathing. Well, not unless you just ran 3 miles or had a near miss with a major car accident. Typically, when you go about your day, your breathing is autonomous like blinking or swallowing. When you have COPD, you experience breathing difficulty. Signs and symptoms of the condition include the following:
- Increased breathlessness
- Frequent coughing
- Tightness of the chest
COPD is sometimes called emphysema or chronic bronchitis, but it’s chronic. That means you live with it every day. When the condition develops, the airways in your lungs become inflamed and thicken, and the tissue where oxygen is exchanged is destroyed. As this occurs, less oxygen gets into your body, and it becomes harder for your body to eliminate the waste gas, carbon dioxide. Eventually, it may become difficult to remain active.
There is not cure for COPD but it’s usually something you can prevent. According to the American Lung Association, most cases are caused by smoking. Female smokers are 13 more times likely to die of COPD than those who have never smoked. Male smokers are 12 times more likely to due of COPD than those who have never smoked.
There are steps you can take to reduce your risk for COPD and it’s never too late to start. If you are a smoker, stop smoking. This is the key to live a longer and healthier life. If you don’t smoke, don’t ever start. Be sure to avoid second-hand smoke and protect your family from exposure. Protect yourself against dust and fumes at home and at work.
It’s never too late to stop smoking and your lung function may improve if you do. This diagram from a leading COPD campaign shows what happens to your body when you quit smoking. In just 2-3 weeks, you will start breathing easier, and within 1-9 months, your lungs begin to repair. Within 5 years and 10 years, chances of a stroke or lung cancer are reduced to the same odds as a non-smoker, respectively. These are some compelling reasons to think twice about quitting regardless of what stage of COPD you may be in.
Making healthy lifestyle changes is your best defense against developing chronic breathing issues. Share this information with someone you care about and help raise awareness of how to prevent developing COPD. Ensure those around you that you love have the best opportunity for a long and healthy life. breathing difficulty