Finding Life and Breathing Better with a Respiratory Disease
Having breath means having life. The simple act of breathing is certainly one of the most natural parts of being alive. It is something we all experience and it is something that we have all taken for granted. Being able to breathe well and with ease is truly a gift. For many Americans, lung health is a serious issue – that gift of easy breathing is no longer a reality. For those who have been diagnosed with a lung condition, every single breath can be a struggle.
One of the most common respiratory diseases in America is COPD. COPD is now the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States. More than 12 million people are currently diagnosed with COPD, and it is likely that another 12 million may have COPD but do not realize it. If you have been diagnosed with COPD, the important thing to realize is that there is hope! It is possible to live well with this diagnosis – by becoming educated about the disease, changing poor health habits and consulting your doctor about treatment options – you can breathe better and continue to have a full and active life.
More than 12 million people are currently diagnosed with COPD, and it is likely that another 12 million may have COPD but do not realize it.
What is COPD?
COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and is a combination of chronic bronchitis and chronic emphysema.
Chronic bronchitis is the inflammation of the lining in the airways. This inflammation restricts air flow to and from the lungs. This restriction causes a persistent cough that produces phlegm and mucus.
Chronic emphysema involves damage to the small airways and air sacs in the lungs. With advanced emphysema, the air sacs become large, irregular “pockets” with holes in their inner walls – this decreases the surface area of the lungs and limits the amount of O2 in the bloodstream. Emphysema also destroys the elasticity of the small airways – think about a worn out balloon. Air becomes trapped in the lungs due to the over expanded tissues.
Most cases of COPD occur as a result of long-term exposure to lung irritants that damage the lungs and airways. The most common irritant that causes COPD is cigarette smoke. Signs and symptoms of COPD may include an ongoing cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, or a cough that produces large amounts of mucus. Once your doctor has confirmed a COPD diagnosis, there are steps you can take to improve your quality of life. Quitting smoking is huge – listen to your body and take note of the effects that cigarette smoke has had. You can also make other lifestyle changes like exercising, practicing better breathing techniques, lowering stress, eating well, going to pulmonary rehab, and following the directions of your doctor.
COPD is not a death sentence! With the help of proactive physicians; advances in science and technology; and companies like Breath of Life who strive to offer the very best in respiratory equipment – you can breathe better and live the active lifestyle you desire – a lifestyle that you won’t take for granted anymore!
Here is a diagram that shows the typical progression of COPD. The better informed you are upfront, the better you can learn to manage your disease.