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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Awareness Month

By Asaf Savir, MD | Pulmonology 

COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), is a disease that affects mostly current or former smokers.  Fifteen million Americans report they have a COPD diagnosis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As a person with COPD, there may be times when you experience a flare-up or exacerbation of your symptoms, like shortness of breath, coughing, mucus production, wheezing and chest tightness. Typically, your doctor will use oral steroids, antibiotics, and inhalers to improve your breathing.  However some exacerbations can be severe and require hospitalization.

We already know that exercise is good for your heart, but  new evidence suggests exercise might also help reduce the risk of hospital re-admission in people with COPD, a study published in the April 9th Annals of the American Thoracic Society finds.

Compared to inactive patients, those who exercised a half-hour, five days a week or more were 34 percent less likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days. Those who exercised less than that still had a 33 percent lower risk compared to those who didn’t exercise at all, the study found. While the study doesn’t establish a cause-and-effect relationship between exercise and lower odds of readmission, it does suggest a link exists between the two.

Everyone at risk for COPD who has cough, sputum production, or shortness of breath, should be tested for the disease. The test for COPD is called spirometry. Spirometry can detect COPD before symptoms become severe. It is a simple, non-invasive breathing test that measures the amount of air a person can blow out of the lungs. Based on this test, your doctor can tell if you have COPD, and if so, how severe it is. The spirometry reading can help them to determine the best course of treatment.

There’s no cure for COPD, but there are medication options that may help manage the symptoms and preserve your lung function. There are also lifestyle changes you and your loved one can make that may make it easier to live with the condition.  You may also qualify for outpatient exercise programs in pulmonary rehabilitation.

Ask your doctor if you should be tested for COPD.