Breathe better: Find out if you suffer from COPD

November is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Awareness month. Though COPD is a condition that affects many people, it isn’t talked about very often. However, COPD is a serious condition that warrants attention.

According to the U.S. COPD Coalition, COPD kills more than 120,000 Americans each year—averaging one death every four minutes. That makes it the fourth leading cause of death in the country. In addition, it can cause long-term disability for those living with the disease. An even more disturbing number is that 12 million people may have the disease and not even know it.

What is COPD?
Simply defined, COPD is a condition where airflow is restricted in the lungs. It's an incurable, but treatable condition that worsens over time, and can be managed or slowed by treatment options. A few symptoms that someone suffering from COPD may experience include the following:

  • Being out of breath when starting physical activities, and as lung function deteriorates, also at rest
  • Chronic cough
  • Spitting or coughing mucus (phlegm)

What Are the Effects of COPD?
Having COPD can limit daily activities and lead to anxiety or depression. Either of these outcomes can have a major impact on your quality of life. The result could be hospital stays, decreased appetite, or inability to maintain your regular exercise and physical activity.

What Are the Risk Factors for Developing COPD?
Here is a list of risk factors for the possibility of developing COPD:

  • Cigarette smoking: 80 percent of people who die from COPD are current or former smokers
  • Age older than 40 years
  • Exposure to occupational dust and chemicals
  • Exposure to smoke from wood or other biomass fires
  • Exposure to indoor air pollution
  • Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency

In addition to these risk factors, conditions at the work place can also add to the possibility of developing the disease. Workers that are more susceptible include the following:

  • Cooks
  • Furnace workers
  • Grain farmers
  • Miners
  • Women who cook over open fires
  • Railroad workers

How do I know if I have COPD?
If you suspect you may be suffering from or exhibiting the conditions of COPD, talk to your doctor. He or she can evaluate your medical and personal history, as well as do a physical examine to help determine if COPD is affecting you.

Another test they can perform is a Pulmonary Function Test, also known as Spirometry, to help determine if a person is suffering from COPD. The test is simple, but effective. A person breathes in and out into an instrument and the force of exhalation is measured. Other tests can be used to determine the seriousness of COPD in a patient, but the Pulmonary Function Test is usually the first one conducted.

To find out more information about COPD, talk to your doctor.

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