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Here's the No. 1 way to prevent COPD

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/ by UK HealthCare

Kentucky has one of the highest rates in the nation for COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a group of conditions that restrict air flow and cause trouble breathing. Worse yet, Kentucky also has one of the highest rates of death from the diseases, which include emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with COPD, you probably have a lot of questions. Here’s what you should know about the condition:

What are the symptoms?

Unfortunately, some of the symptoms of COPD don’t appear until after your lungs have been significantly damaged. If exposure to smoking continues, these symptoms will worsen.

Some people who have COPD experience episodes that last several days where their symptoms become worse than usual. These symptoms include:

  • Chronic cough (also known as smoker’s cough).
  • Chronic phlegm production.
  • Shortness of breath while doing things you used to be able to do.
  • Not being able to take a deep breath.
  • Wheezing.
  • Chest tightness.
  • Frequent respiratory infections.
  • Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds.

What causes it?

The majority of COPD cases – between 85 and 90 percent – are caused by smoking.

People whose work exposes them to chemical fumes, vapors and dusts are also at a greater risk for COPD.

If diagnosed with COPD, here's what you can do to cope:

  • Monitor air quality before going out.
  • If you are prescribed inhalers, learn how to use them properly.
  • Notify your doctor at the first signs of respiratory infection.
  • Eat a balanced diet high in vitamins and minerals.
  • Maintain a healthy weight to avoid putting extra burden on your respiratory system.

What should be my next steps?

Quitting smoking is essential. Smoking cessation may improve lung function in the early stages of COPD and preserve lung function in the later stages of the disease. This is often easier said than done, but seeing a tobacco cessation expert is a great first step on your way to kicking this dangerous habit.

If a loved one smokes, encourage them to smoke outside.

If your work exposes you to chemical fumes and dust, talk to your supervisor about how to best protect yourself and how to use respiratory protective equipment.

Is there a cure?

While there is no cure for COPD, treatment is available to manage the symptoms that are caused by COPD and improve quality of life. Treatment options include medication (such as inhalers), pulmonary rehabilitation, exercise and oxygen treatment.

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