If you find that you have a relentless cough and a more than normal amount of phlegm, and if you feel as if you are short of breath when physically active, you may be experiencing the symptoms of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). This serious lung condition, which includes other diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis, feels like it takes your breath away.
When you have COPD, your body has difficulty taking in and expelling air because your airways are partially obstructed. Over time, activities become more limited since even light tasks can make breathing challenging. People who are most vulnerable to this disease are those between the ages of 65 and 74, white, females, non-workers, individuals without a partner, smokers and those who used to smoke, and people who have had asthma. But we are seeing younger adults (in their 50s and 40s) getting diagnosed before they show advanced symptom like blue or grey lips, an accelerated heart rate, foot edema, a decline in mental acuity, and weight-loss.
There is currently no cure for COPD, but there are treatments to control its symptoms. The most important step you can take to alleviate your symptoms is to stop smoking or vaping, if you currently smoke or vape. Staying away from secondhand smoke is another important step. Eating strategies can be helpful to people who find eating difficult because they cannot catch their breath or they are just too exhausted to eat. These strategies include taking a short nap prior to eating and eating small amounts of food more often. Vitamins can also help, and so can exercise designed to make respiratory muscles stronger, such as our downloadable Blue Marble app. Inhaled medications such as bronchodilators work to open air passages and inhaled steroids lessen the degree of swelling in the air passages. For people who have extreme difficulty breathing, oxygen therapy is a consideration. If none of these treatments help, surgery to eliminate damaged lung tissue or a lung transplant is an option.
Approximately 15 million American’s have been diagnosed with COPD. But because diagnosing COPD is not as common in the earlier stages of the disease, it is believed that an equal number of men and women have this disease but do not know it because they have not been diagnosed. Increasingly, more women than men are dying from this illness each year. To lessen your chance of getting COPD, it is recommended that you avoid smoking cigarettes and avoid breathing in smoke from cigarettes, dust, fumes from chemicals, and any other toxins in the air.