Healthy sheboygan county 2020 column:living with chronic lung disease
Healthy Sheboygan County 2020 column:Living with chronic lung disease
Written by Carolyn Verhage For the Press
What is COPD? The letters stand for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, a slowly progressive diseaseinvolving the airways in the lungs. The two main diseases that make up COPD are emphysema and chronicbronchitis. Many people have a combination of these two diseases. Symptoms like coughing that produces largeamounts of mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness often worsen over time and can limit theability to do even routine activities like walking, climbing stairs, or getting dressed. COPD is a major cause ofdisability, and is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Millions of people are diagnosed with COPD.
Many more may have the disease and not even know it.
Long-term cigarette smoking causes nearly all cases of COPD, and it takes many years for COPD to develop beforepeople need medical help. Most people begin to feel the symptoms between age 50 and 70. People with COPD mayhave worsening attacks or flare-ups from time to time.
Other diseases besides COPD that can cause lung damage include asthma, cystic fibrosis, sarcoidosis, lung fibrosis,pulmonary hypertension, and lung cancer. People with chronic lung conditions should get an annual flu shot and asktheir doctor if a pneumonia vaccine is appropriate. Wash your hands often and avoid germs to prevent infections.
Quitting use of all tobacco products is the absolute best move you can make to improve your health. Use of nicotinereplacement (patch, gum, lozenge, inhalers, and sprays) and some prescription medications (Wellbutrin, Zyban, andChantix) can all help your effort. Learn how to handle and limit stress and urges to smoke. Wisconsin’s Quit Line isavailable 24 hours a day, seven days per week, and offers free live coaching and many other resources(1-800-QUIT-NOW/800-784-8669). Research shows smokers who use Quit Line are four times more likely to quit,than if they try on their own.
If diagnosed with serious lung disease, starting pulmonary rehabilitation will help you learn about your disease,assist you with smoking cessation, and get you started on an exercise program. Contact your local hospital, lungspecialist, or primary doctor to discuss pulmonary rehabilitation. Medicare, Medicare Advantage, and insuranceplans cover most of the expense of pulmonary rehabilitation, like any other rehab or therapy service.
Although COPD is serious, it does not mean the end of enjoying your life. Together with your pulmonaryrehabilitation team, you can learn ways to improve your breathing and fitness thereby preventing quick and seriousworsening of your disease. It takes commitment to improve your health and effort to use your medicines andtherapies correctly. You can live well with a diagnosis of lung disease. It is up to you to take control.
—Carolyn Verhage, RN, BC, BSN, FAACVPR, St. Nicholas Hospital Therapeutic Exercise Department andmember of HSC 2020’s Sheboygan County Activity and Nutrition Committee.
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