Tips for avoiding chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Although it sounds rare and obscure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is shockingly common. Here are a few things you can do to avoid the disease:

Tips for avoiding chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

What is COPD?

  • When a team of researchers scanned the lungs of over 9,000 people around the world, they found that one in 10 had moderate to severe COPD.
  • In some nations, it's the fourth leading cause of death, right behind heart disease, cancer and stroke.
  • Smoking causes most cases as it weakens the tiny tubes and air sacs in your lungs so that they can't force out stale air, leaving little room for your next fresh, oxygen-rich inhalation.
  • COPD makes you cough, wheeze and feel oh, so tired; it also raises your risk of lung infections and life-threatening lung damage.
  • People who have it usually have chronic bronchitis, emphysema, bronchial asthma or some combination of these.
  • Follow these tips to increase your line of defence.

1. Stop smoking

Smoking cigarettes, cigars and pipes causes an estimated 85 percent of COPD cases.

  • Over a lifetime, half of all smokers will develop this debilitating lung disease.
  • Quitting is the most effective way for smokers to reduce their risk.
  • We'll be honest:  if you already have COPD, quitting won't reverse lung damage that's already been done, but experts say it's still crucial.
  • By kicking the habit, you can cut future declines in lung function by half.

2. Refuse to be a passive smoker

Secondhand smoke is packed with chemicals and particles that irritate your lungs.

  • Living with a smoker raises your own odds of developing COPD by 55 percent.
  • Working in a smoky environment raised risk 36 percent in one study.
  • Insist on smoke-free air in your home and car.

3. Steer clear of fumes, vapours and dust on the job

University of California, San Francisco, researchers concluded that workplace exposures to bad air double COPD risk.

  • If your job involves breathing in dust, fumes, or vapours, wear a respirator.

4. Eat like a Sicilian fisherman

Pile your plate with fruit, vegetables, beans and fish; use olive oil in place of butter; and enjoy a glass of wine with your dinner.

  • This Mediterranean-style way of eating cut the risk of COPD in half in one major study.
  • Processed foods, red meats and refined sugars raised risk.
  • Antioxidants in the Mediterranean menu may protect cells from damage, while compounds in fish and olive oil help cool chronic inflammation, which also plays a role in lung destruction.

5. Get a spirometry test

Millions of people have undiagnosed COPD and are missing out on treatments and strategies that could literally save their lives.

  • If you're a smoker or show any signs of COPD, ask your doctor about this simple test that measures how much air you can expel from your lungs and how fast.

6. Avoid cured meats

In one study, people who ate cured meats such as bacon, sausage, lunchmeats and cured ham 14 or more times per month were 93 percent more likely to develop COPD than those who never ate them.

  • Nitrites used as preservatives and colour fixatives in these meats may raise levels of cell-damaging particles called reactive nitrogen species in the bloodstream.

Newest thinking

  • Research from Cardiff University in the United Kingdom found that people with COPD have arteries that are about 25 percent stiffer than the arteries of people without the disease, raising their risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.
  • They were also nine times more likely to have osteoporosis. Experts suspect that the lung damage that causes COPD puts the immune system on high alert; this in turn speeds the development of plaque in artery walls and may weaken bones.

All in all, it's pretty evident that we have a huge influence over whether or not we will suffer from COPD later in life. Since that's the case, start living healthy now.

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