When your lungs are out of shape, your whole body suffers. Simple daily activities like walking can be difficult. And certain lung diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), can gradually reduce lung capacity.
Here are some tips to deal with or help prevent the most common types of lung ailments.
Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body and causes many diseases. COPD — the third leading cause of death in the United States — occurs predominately in cigarette smokers. All smokers should speak with their doctors to discuss smoking cessation options as soon as possible.
“It is imperative that all individuals with COPD stop smoking to prevent progression of the disease,” said Dr. Virginia Hood, president of the American College of Physicians (ACP), a national organization of internal medicine physicians. “Of course, smokers without COPD should quit not only to decrease the risk of COPD, but also the risk of other serious potential complications of smoking, including lung cancer, cardiovascular disease and chronic kidney disease. It’s never too late to stop. And if you don’t smoke, don’t start.”
Individuals with coughing (with or without phlegm), wheezing or shortness of breath that lasts more than two weeks should see a doctor, such as a pulmonologist, trained to diagnose respiratory illnesses. Physicians now have a new guideline to diagnose and manage COPD to help them prevent and treat exacerbations, reduce hospitalizations and deaths, and improve patient quality of life. The new guideline was developed by the ACP in collaboration with the American College of Chest Physicians, the American Thoracic Society, and the European Respiratory Society.
If individuals have respiratory symptoms, the new guideline recommends that physicians use a breathing test called spirometry to make a diagnosis of airflow obstruction. Patients may be treated with medications that help relax the airways of the lungs and drugs that decrease inflammation. For patients with COPD who have very low blood oxygen levels, physicians may prescribe continuous oxygen therapy. In addition, pulmonary rehabilitation, which typically includes an exercise regimen as an important component, is also helpful. For more information, visit www.acponline.org.
For healthy lungs, try to get 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise at least three times weekly. If that’s too much to start, begin slowly by alternating a few minutes of walking and running. Also, breathe deeply as you exercise. Many times, people working out take short shallow breaths which are good for getting you oxygen, but not for building lung capacity.
Know Your Air Quality
People with breathing problems should check the air quality in their area each day and take proper precautions. If this information is not available in your local weather report, visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality site at www.airnow.gov.
With healthy lungs, there’s a whole world to explore.
Courtesy of State Point Media