5 Things to Know About COPD
COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is a lung disease and the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, following heart disease, cancer and stroke. Sadly, the disease can be silent for many years, delaying treatment that could have been beneficial. By the time many people realize they are living with COPD, it’s too late. Roughly 24 million Americans don’t know they have COPD because it mimics the symptoms of emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
Today, let's clear up the most common misconceptions about COPD.
- Symptoms of COPD include cough, mucus, breathing difficulty and wheezing.
COPD causes the lungs to be inflamed, obstructing airflow. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing and mucus production. Typically, the irritation comes from long-term exposure of cigarette smoke, though it can come from other gases or particles in the environment. There is also a genetic condition that can increase the risk for COPD.
- COPD is treatable. The key is recognizing its signs and symptoms.
COPD can’t be cured but it can be treated. The goal is to slow down damage to the lung tissue. This can be done in a number of ways. One is to minimize inflammation with brohciliators that keep the airways relaxed. Inhaled corticosteroids are helpful during flare-ups, while antibiotics and oxygen therapy can treat respiratory infections.
Another way to manage COPD is through lifestyle habits. If you smoke, quit. It’s also recommended to get a flu shot and pneumonia shot each year.
- COPD is a disease that can happen in your 30s and 40s.
Most COPD cases shown on TV are of older people, but this is misleading. Although most people are diagnosed in their 50s and 60s, COPD actually starts much younger. In rare cases, people develop COPD in their 20s and 30s, but it is common for symptoms to start in their 40s. In later life, the symptoms can no longer be ignored.
If you are young and notice signs of COPD, get them checked. It’s fast, easy and painless, and you can start taking precautions right away.
- Exercise is a great way to keep the lungs healthy.
Another way to prevent further damage to the lungs is by exercising. Some people think that you can’t exercise with COPD, but this couldn’t be more false. Physical activity affects how the heart pumps blood and how the muscles take oxygen out of the blood. This contributes to a more efficient system that leads to greater exercise capacity. Even a little bit of activity goes a long way.
- COPD raises the risk for high blood pressure and heart attack.
COPD may be a lung disease, but it can have damaging effects to other parts of your health. For example, people with COPD are at a higher risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. Depression is an emotional side effect as well, as some people feel that they are given a death sentence. It’s important to work closely with your doctor to make lifestyle changes and take the appropriate medications to have a high quality of life.
It is possible to treat the symptoms of COPD and lead a healthy, active life. For severe cases of COPD, in-home support from skilled caregivers is available from Doctor’s Choice.