Imagine for a moment having trouble breathing or feeling significant pain when you inhale or exhale. Imagine feeling like you cannot get enough oxygen in your body no matter how deeply you inhale. Unfortunately, lung diseases that cause such concerns are much more common than most of us realize. More than 3 million people die each year from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease alone. Additionally, 235 million people suffer from asthma, a common lung disease that is often diagnosed in children. Lung health is essential all year around, but the week of October 21- 27 is dedicated to promoting it and protecting it for Respiratory Care Week.
The week gives us an opportunity to celebrate each breath and to consider making changes to our lifestyles in order to keep lung-related illnesses at bay. Unless we choose to smoke, or if we are exposed to significant pollution, we may not give much thought to our lungs. Interestingly enough, it’s one of the few organs that constantly gives us a reminder of its existence: we breathe to inhale oxygen into our lungs and exhale carbon dioxide every minute of every day. Even so, most of us take our lung health for granted.
So what can you do to care for your lungs and those of loved ones? Let’s look at some common types of lung disease and 5 steps you can take today to better care for your lungs.
Common lung diseases
Some of the most common lung diseases include:
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
COPD is an obstructive inflammation of the bronchial tubes and chronic emphysema. It’s a progressive disease that limits airflow into and out of the lungs due to irritation, thickening and scarring. Additionally, the walls of the air sacs often break down, causing less oxygen to travel in the blood.
Often, COPD is preventable and treatable.
Similar to most cancers, lung cancer is characterized by a malignant tumor multiplying and growing uncontrollably. The two main types of lung cancer are small cell lung cancer, which tends to spread quickly to other parts of the body, and non-small cell lung cancer.
Smoking cigarettes is the #1 cause of lung cancer.
Other lung diseases
Some of these include:
- Pulmonary embolism: a life-threatening blockage (usually a blood clot) that prevents oxygen from reaching the tissues of the lungs.
- Pulmonary hypertension: high blood pressure in the lungs that reduces oxygen flow into the blood
- Sarcoidosis: disease can causes immune system to overreact and can cause lung damage
- Pulmonary fibrosis: scarring of the lungs
- Lymphandioleiomyomatosis (LAM): rare, progressive disease that can affect lung health and breathing ability
- Influenza: serious and easily spread respiratory illness
- Pneumonia: common lung infection caused by a virus, fungi or bacteria.
Tips to protect your lung health
- Don’t smoke
This one may seem obvious. Smoking cigarettes is the leading cause of lung cancer and of COPD. Cigarette smoke can limit the passage of air, making it hard to breathe in the moment, and over time. Even in the short-term, cigarette smoke can cause inflammation and swelling in the lungs.