I’m a baby boomer – which means I grew up in a world full of second-hand smoke. My parents and grandparents smoked when I was young. Every restaurant we dined in, Broadway show we attended and airplane we flew in for summer vacation was filled with cigarette smoke. It’s no surprise that I, along with most of my family members, have some form of chronic lung disease caused by either smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke.
November is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Awareness Month. COPD (the umbrella term for emphysema and chronic bronchitis) is a progressive lung disease that slowly robs its sufferers of the ability to draw life-sustaining breath. It is the third leading cause of death in the United States, surpassed only by heart disease and cancer. Since smoking is the primary cause of COPD, many living with the disease do so in isolation due to the negative stigma associated with COPD and smoking.
There is no known cure for COPD, but it can be managed. If someone you love is struggling with COPD, now is the time to reach out and offer your support. If you have been diagnosed with COPD, follow these four steps below to better manage your disease:
Have you been diagnosed with COPD?
- Create a management plan that’s right for you. Discuss treatment options and goals with your healthcare provider to create a COPD action plan. This plan will include medicines, proper nutrition and physical activity that fit within your budget and lifestyle.
- Take medicine as prescribed. Your health care provider may prescribe a daily medicine to control your COPD. Long-term controller medicines will help avoid flare-ups, but only work when taken daily. Keep your quick-relief inhaler with you at all times and use it as soon as you feel symptoms.
- Attend pulmonary rehab. Pulmonary rehabilitation is a program of education and exercise classes that teach you about your lungs and your disease, and how to exercise and be more active with less shortness of breath. The classes take place in a group setting, giving you the chance to meet others with your condition, and both give and receive support.
- Reach out for support. When you have chronic lung disease, it may feel like no one understands what you’re going through, and that you are all alone. The American Lung Association offers support through its Better Breathers Clubs, Respiratory Rallies, Lung HelpLine and online support community, The Lung Connection: Online Support Community.
To find out more about these free resources and the items listed above, visit http://www.lung.org/california or call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872).