Our lungs play a critical role in our bodies—they take in oxygen and help distribute it throughout our bodies. If they become damaged, breathing can become more difficult, and lung disease may result. COPD is a long-term, chronic result of lung damage, which can lead to you needing assistance with breathing later in life and experiencing other related side effects. Here’s what you need to know about COPD and keeping your lungs healthy so they will serve you well.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that affects the movement of air in and out of your body, making it difficult to breathe. It usually develops as a result of the lungs being damaged over an extended period of time and is often the next step in lung disease after emphysema or chronic bronchitis.
COPD causes swelling in the lungs, making it difficult for oxygen to move in and out of the body. Many people with COPD end up needing to use supplemental oxygen and assistive breathing equipment.
COPD Risk Factors
The primary cause of COPD is smoking, because smoking damages your airways. If allowed to progress, smoking can lead to chronic coughing (“smoker’s hack”) and lung disease. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are two primary first outcomes of lung disease.
Some other risk factors that can contribute to the development of COPD include:
- Breathing fumes from burning fuel for warmth or cooking in a poorly ventilated home, though this is not a common occurrence in the United States.
- Ongoing exposure to dust and chemicals, such as in a daily work environment without proper protective equipment
- Chronic asthma
- Genetics/family history of lung disease
Symptoms and Results of COPD
Symptoms of COPD include:
- Shortness of breath, especially when physically active
- Tightness in the chest
- A chronic cough that produces mucus
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Low energy levels
- Weight loss (in later stages)
- Swelling in the ankles, feet, and legs
COPD can lead to a wide variety of other health problems, such as:
- Heart disease
- Chronic respiratory infections like the flu, colds, and pneumonia
- Weakened immune system
- High blood pressure in the lungs
How to Keep Your Lungs Healthy
There are several things you can do to ensure your lungs stay as healthy as possible.
Avoiding tobacco products is the first and primary step to healing your lungs or preventing them from becoming damaged. No matter your age, quitting smoking now will begin to decrease your chances of contracting this condition as your lungs start to heal.
Get Plenty of Exercise
Keeping yourself active has a practically infinite number of benefits for improving your physical health. This includes helping your lungs work properly. Exercise increases the efficiency of your breathing and helps oxygen move properly throughout your body. It also helps lower your risk of lung disease.
Do Breathing Exercises
Breathing exercises are often a part of meditative practices or activities like yoga. They will help you focus on controlling your breathing, which in turn will help your lungs work more effectively over time.
Seek Treatment for Respiratory Illness
If you have asthma or get frequent colds or sicknesses that affect your respiratory system, it’s important to do everything you can to treat and prevent them. Otherwise, you may risk developing a more serious health condition.
Get an Annual Physical Exam
In a regular exam, your doctor can run tests to determine the overall health of your body, including your lungs. If they find any concerning signs that point to lung disease and/or COPD, they can provide you with the resources and education to prevent these conditions from progressing any further.
If you smoke or think you may be at risk for lung disease, our doctors here at Community Access Network can provide you with information and options to help you prevent illness and/or seek treatment. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!