Answering Your Questions About Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Answering Your Questions About Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

COPD, the shorter name for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, is more common than you’d think, affecting some 16 million Americans, as reported by the Center of Disease Control.

Here are some other things you might not have known about COPD, including whether it makes COVID-19 more dangerous.


What are the most common symptoms of COPD?

Common symptoms of COPD can include coughing, wheezing, excess mucus, trouble breathing deeply and overall shortness of breath.


What causes COPD?

The disease can be caused by environmental factors, including poor air quality and cigarette smoke. It can also be the result of genetics and respiratory illnesses, such as bronchitis. However, most of the United State’s cases are attributed to cigarette smoking.


Who is most likely to get COPD?

The bulk of data suggests that COPD is more common among men and women who are ethnic minorities and live in lower income communities, according to the CDC. Despite the fact that the illness was once considered more common in men, data since 2000 shows that more women than men die from the illness. Reasons for this might include women being more susceptible to lung damage from smoking and other environmental irritants.


What is the relationship between COPD and COVID-19?

Because the symptoms of the novel coronavirus can include coughing and trouble breathing, the illness can be quite dangerous for people suffering from COPD. The good news, however, is that having COPD does not mean you’re more likely to contract COVID-19, according to the University of Maryland Medical System website.


What kinds of effects does COPD have on a person’s lifestyle?

Individuals who suffer from COPD aren’t always diagnosed — many Americans have the illness without knowing it. Those who have been diagnosed but fail to manage or treat the illness may find it affects other aspects of life, including fewer social outings; limited physical activity; more doctor’s office or hospital visits; more mental health problems, such as depression; difficulty working; and increased confusion or memory loss, according to the CDC.


How is COPD diagnosed and treated?

COPD is diagnosed with the help of a fairly simple lung test called a spirometry. This test is used to measure lung function on anyone who has breathing difficulties.

Treatment can run the gamut from diet and exercise improvements to learning to breathe more effectively and preserve energy. Protecting yourself from lung infections – including vaccinating against the flu — and quitting smoking are crucial. In some cases, medication and supplemental oxygen might be necessary.


Love Your Lungs, Improve Lung Function

Improving your lung function, even without COPD, is a great idea and can only lead to greater health. Here are a few ways to improve lung function and maintain ideal oxygen levels in the body.


Do not smoke or vape.

If you smoke cigarettes or use a vaping device, quit. Though people frequently think vaping is safer than smoking, the amount of research “about how vaping affects the lungs is in the initial stages,” according to Johns Hopkins lung cancer surgeon Dr. Stephen Broderick.


Practice yoga, meditation or deep breathing exercises regularly.

Yoga, meditation and deep breathing can train your body to take in deeper, oxygen-rich breaths — a habit that can carry over to other parts of your day.


Eat foods that include antioxidants.

Foods that include antioxidants are known for destroying free radicals that compromise lung health. To add antioxidants to your diet, eat more blueberries, dark leafy greens, peppers, apples, tomatoes, pumpkins, cocoa, olive oil, nuts, yogurt and fatty fish. Green tea is also packed with antioxidants.


Improve indoor air quality as much as possible.

Indoor air quality matters for lung health. To ensure better indoor air quality, keep a clean home, change air filters regularly, buy indoor plants, open doors and windows for fresh air and invest in a dehumidifier or air purifier if necessary.


Exercise, laugh and sing.

Moving around is good for our whole body, lungs included. Go out for a run, walk or bike ride to get some aerobic exercise and fresh air. And guess what? Singing and laughing are also good for your lungs! So go ahead and watch that funny movie or sing in the shower — your lungs will thank you.


Written by: Denise K. James

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