The top myths about Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Lungs are equally important as heart and brain, with time and age they can become less flexible and lose their strength which can make it more difficult to breathe.

COPD is caused by being exposed over time to irritants like gases and particulate matter, like cigarette smoke or chemical fumes and dust at work.
COPD is caused by being exposed over time to irritants like gases and particulate matter, like cigarette smoke or chemical fumes and dust at work. (Representative image)

By Dr. Ankit Singhal 

India, which dominates the list of having the world’s most polluted cities, also has the highest number of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) cases in the world. Most people want to be healthier but rarely they do think about protecting and maintaining the health of their lungs. Lungs are equally important as heart and brain, with time and age they can become less flexible and lose their strength which can make it more difficult to breathe. By certain healthy habits and care you can better maintain healthy lungs and keep them functioning better. Also it is very important to know about your lung health and avoid the myths which people are dealing with and may lead to harming your lungs.

Decoding the top Myths:

MYTH #1: Only smokers get COPD.

FACT: While smoking can cause COPD, about 24% of people with COPD never smoked. Also, about 1% of people with COPD may have it due to a genetic condition called Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency.

COPD is caused by being exposed over time to irritants like gases and particulate matter, like cigarette smoke or chemical fumes and dust at work.

MYTH #2: COPD only affects the lungs.

FACT: If you have COPD, your heart is working harder to breathe so your body gets the oxygen it needs. This puts people with COPD at a greater risk for heart attack and heart disease.

Additionally, your ability to be active may be limited with COPD – which may affect your mental health if you’re less able to keep up with your friends and family.

MYTH #3: If you have COPD, you can’t exercise.

FACT: Moderate exercise is important to help reduce COPD symptoms and strengthen your heart. If you are short of breath when you start exercising, talk to your doctor about what kinds of steps you can take to build up your endurance. Seek out pulmonary rehabilitation, where a respiratory therapist can teach you breathing techniques, special exercises and a nutrition plan. As always, talk to your doctor before beginning any kind of exercise routine.

MYTH #4: There is no effective treatment for COPD.

FACT: COPD is treatable. While treatment cannot reverse the damage to your lungs, treatment can control your symptoms and help you feel better. Treatment can also prevent any future damage to your lungs.

If you are diagnosed with COPD, you should take steps to quit smoking, eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and stay up to date on vaccines for influenza and pneumonia in addition to following your doctor’s prescribed treatment and medications.

MYTH #5: There’s no benefit to quitting smoking if you have COPD.

FACT: Quitting smoking will slow the progression of COPD, which means it is never too late to quit. While lung damage with COPD is not reversible, you can prevent it from getting worse. Additionally, if you quit smoking early enough, near-normal lung function may return.

For those with COPD, it’s important to take steps to help your body manage the disease. Conserving your energy is important, as breathing takes more energy for people with COPD. Avoid extreme exertion like yard work and heavy lifting, and plan for rest periods during the day.

People with COPD are more likely to get respiratory infections so it’s important to take steps to avoid getting sick, including washing your hands and getting the flu shot every year and pneumonia shot every five years. If you think you’re getting sick, talk to your doctor.

Maintaining a healthy weight can also help your heart and lungs, as well as drinking plenty of water.

MYTH #6 Body weight does not affect COPD

FACT: This is not true. Dr. Schachter told us that carrying excess body weight can increase the disability associated with COPD.

Conversely, if people have a body weight that is below moderate, it can be “a sign of emphysema and also indicates a poor prognosis.”

MYTH #7 COPD is a death sentence

You can’t reverse COPD, but it doesn’t mean your life is over, either.

FACT: People who stop smoking, get plenty of exercise, and take good care of themselves often have a good prognosis, With the right medication and lifestyle changes, you can manage your COPD and live an active life.

However, with any chronic illness, it’s often about getting the right kind of support to stay positive and motivated enough to manage the disease.

MYTH#8: NOTHING CAN BE DONE TO TREAT COPD

FACT: Although there is currently no cure for COPD, with the help of your doctor it can be effectively managed to find the right support and treatment options that work for you.

MYTH#9: I AM ALONE IN COPING WITH COPD

FACT: It is estimated that 384 million people are living with COPD symptoms globally. 14 COPD patient groups worldwide offer advice and support to help you live with the condition.

(The author is Pulmonologist, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, New Delhi. The article is for informational purposes only. Please consult medical experts and health professionals before starting any therapy, medication and/or remedy. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

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