November is COPD Awareness Month
November is recognized as COPD Awareness Month.
In honor of that recognition, Fellowship Square takes a closer look at what chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is and how seniors can protect themselves from this disease.
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, COPD is “a progressive lung disease that affects millions across the country.” The disease makes it hard for people to breathe and it gets worse over time. Some of the symptoms besides difficulty breathing are coughing with heavy mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightness of the chest. When people have COPD, less air flows in and out of the airways due to damage or inflammation of the lungs’ airways, air sacs, and walls.
While many people may associate COPD with smoking (and yes, cigarette smoking is the leading cause of this disease), the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute reports that “up to 25 percent of people with COPD never smoked.” The Institute goes on to state that long-term exposure to other contaminants that irritate the lungs — including air pollution, chemical fumes, and dust — can also be to blame for COPD.
COPD is actually the fourth leading cause of death in the nation and currently, 16 million people have been diagnosed with the disease. While the disease develops slowly, severe COPD can disrupt seniors from even the most basic daily activities such as walking, cooking, or performing daily hygiene habits. Most symptoms appear after the age of 40.
While there is currently no cure, the site notes that people with COPD can improve their quality of life and breathe better with the help of an early diagnosis and proper treatment. A treatment plan can include relieving symptoms, slowing the progression of the disease, increasing exercise, and physical activity, and improving overall health.
First and foremost, if seniors who smoke have been diagnosed with COPD, they should quit smoking. Seniors’ health care provider can help suggest programs and products to help them quit. It’s also a good idea to avoid places where other lung irritants (including secondhand smoke) are found.
While COPD can sometimes interfere with seniors' ability to eat and enjoy mealtime, doctors can recommend eating plans that ensure they are getting enough to eat. Some people with COPD find that eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day can be helpful as well as supplementing with vitamins. Doctors may also suggest exercises that help not only increase overall wellness but COPD patients’ ability to breathe. There are some medications that can help manage COPD along with other treatments.
Every patient is different, so it is important that seniors who might be experiencing COPD speak with their trusted physician who knows their health history. Fellowship Square encourages seniors and their caretakers to speak up regarding any health issue they may be having because early detection is vital for many illnesses.