The Keys To Healthy Lungs
November is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Awareness Month. And we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to share with you some tips on how you can keep your respiratory system in tip-top shape. Learn the keys to healthy lungs to help prevent COPD and know the signs of alert to head for your nearest ER.
How Common is Lung Disease?
Unfortunately, lung disease is more common than any of us would like, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion:
- More than 25 million people in America have asthma
- Approximately 14.8 million adults are living with a diagnosis of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- About 12 million adults have COPD but don’t know it yet
What is COPD?
The COPD Foundation defines COPD as an umbrella term that engulfs several progressive non-curable lung diseases characterized by increasing breathlessness.
COPD includes illnesses such as:
- Chronic Bronchitis
- Refractory (non-reversible) Asthma
While there is currently no cure for COPD, early diagnosis and treatment can help manage symptoms.
Symptoms of COPD
Symptoms of COPD vary from patient to another, but some of the most common symptoms are:
- Increased shortness of breath
- Frequent coughing (with and without mucus)
- Increased breathlessness
- Tightness in the chest
How You Can Help Lungs Stay Healthy
It’s easy to take our lungs for granted; after all, we only focus on our breathing when we have trouble with it.
Although our bodies have natural defenses to protect our lungs, we also have to do our part and avoid certain behaviors and situations to our risk of developing lung disease.
Tip # 1 Step Away From The Cigarettes
You probably already know that smoking is bad for your health. But did you know that one of the leading causes of lung cancer and COPD, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is cigarette smoke?
Here is how smoking affects your lungs:
- It narrows the air passages which makes breathing harder
- Cigarette smoke causes chronic inflammation in the lungs which over time can lead to chronic bronchitis
- Smoking eventually destroys lung tissue and may lead to lung cancer
If you smoke, it’s never too late to quit. Even if you have been a smoker for years or decades, your lungs will still benefit if you stopped today.
When you are ready to stop smoking, the American Lung Association has a lot of resources available to help you quit.
Tip # 2 Beware of Air Pollutants
The air quality we breathe is essential for healthy lungs. When we think of unhealthy air, the first thing that springs to mind is car exhaust fumes. But there are a lot of other contaminants which can come from manufacturing plants, heavy construction equipment, second-hand smoke, and even natural sources such as fires and dust.
Chemicals within your home can also lower the quality of the air you breathe inside your house. Smoking indoors also affects the quality of air.
To help prevent lung problems, pay attention to the air quality around your home and workplace. There are many applications which can alert you when the air quality outside is less than ideal, consider downloading one of these onto your phone.
If the air quality is bad avoid exercising outdoors, and in general try to stay indoors in a controlled climate as much as possible during those days.
Know Where to Go in Case of an Emergency.
Tip # 3 Prevent Infections
Respiratory infections can sometimes turn into something more serious. To prevent complications, remember to:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based solution
- Avoid crowds during flu season
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day to get rid of harmful bacteria in your mouth that could cause an infection
- Get vaccinated against the flu every year. Also ask your doctor if the pneumonia vaccine is right for you
- If you have a cold or the flu, stay home!
Tip # 5 Exercise to Strengthen Your Lungs
Regular moderate exercise will help to increase your lung capacity and keep them strong and healthy.
When we are physically active our muscles require more oxygen; this means our heart and lungs need to work harder to supply that extra oxygen. As your fitness levels improve, so will your lung capacity.
When To Go To the ER
Having trouble breathing is a red flag that something isn’t right. If your breathing problems are severe enough to disrupt your daily activities, call 911 or have someone drive you to the nearest Altus Emergency Center immediately.
Make sure to visit our ER if:
- You have sudden breathing problems
- Your breathing difficulties develop alongside chest pain, nausea or vomiting, and feeling faint
- Your breathing problems are due to a chronic illness such as asthma, COPD, and your regular medications aren’t working
- You notice your lips or fingers turning blue
- You have difficulty breathing while lying down
Altus Emergency Centers are open 24/7 every day of the year including holidays. If you have trouble breathing, don’t wait, we are always here to help you breathe comfortably again.