More than 50% of Australians* rarely or never think about the health of their lungs. Considering that we take approximately 22,000 breaths per day, protecting our lung health is important.
The month of November is Lung Health Awareness. With approximately 2.6 million cases of lung disease reported each year, and with 1 in 7 adults dying from lung disease in Australia, Australians are encouraged to take the health of their lungs seriously.
What are the symptoms of lung disease?
Signs that you may be suffering from lung illness, include shortness of breath, a chronic cough that won’t go away or gets worse, chest pain or tightness, wheezing, coughing up blood or phlegm, chronic pneumonia and fatigue.
Examples of the types of lung disease include:
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- chronic bronchitis
- interstitial lung diseases
- lung cancer
Lung disease can affect young and old. It can affect both sexes as well as smokers, ex-smokers and never smokers… However, most of it is undiagnosed, as people are either not aware of the symptoms, choose to ignore it, or they accept the symptoms as part of ageing…
World COPD Day is on Wednesday 18 November. COPD is a long-term disease of the lungs which causes shortness of breath and affects 1 in 7 Australians aged 40 years or over, and is the second leading cause of avoidable hospital admissions.
The day aims to raise awareness about the symptoms of COPD and highlight the resources available to support patients and their caregivers.
What causes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)?
The single largest cause and risk factor for COPD (which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema), is cigarette smoking.
Other lifestyle risk factors include exposure to air pollution, chemicals, dust and fumes, as well as exposure to secondhand smoking.
With 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, many of these chemicals cause direct damage to the lung tissue. Smoking damages the air sacs in the lungs and over time leads to a loss of lung function. Smoking also affects the immune system causing the lungs to become inflamed.
Over time and with continued smoking, COPD gets worse, where for some sufferers, even routine activities such as walking or dressing can be difficult.
There is no cure for COPD – the damage to the lungs is permanent. COPD is a slow debilitating disease and can cause years of suffering…
What can you do to reduce your risk of COPD?
If you are concerned about developing COPD, you can take some steps today to protect yourself.
- Quit smoking
- Avoid exposure to secondhand smoking
- Protect yourself from other chemicals, dust and fumes
Want to know whether your lungs are healthy?
The Lung Foundation Australia has developed an interactive lung health checklist. To check whether your lungs are healthy, fill out the short quiz. Some of the questions include whether you have a persistent cough, get out of breath more easily and whether you have frequent chest infections…
For further information on COPD, visit the Lung Foundation Australia.
We hope you enjoyed this article and until next time wishing you all great health and wellbeing!
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* Lung Foundation Australia. www.worldcopddaylungfoundation.com.au
Lung Disease in Australia (2014). Woolcock Institute of Medical Research.
Greenhalgh, EM, Scollo, MM & Winstanley (2020). Tobacco in Australia: Facts and issues. Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria. www.TobaccoInAustralia.org.au.
Page A, Ambrose S, Glover J et al (2007). Atlas of Avoidable Hospitalisations in Australia: ambulatory care-sensitive conditions. Adelaide PHIDU. University of Adelaide.