D id you know that disorders of the respiratory system can leave you tired, weak, breathless and even prevent you from enjoying life? Knowing your risk and what you can do to keep your respiratory system functioning at its best is crucial to healthy living and creating the life you want. Allergies occur when our immune system falsely reacts to otherwise harmless substances called allergens. Causes are unknown, but they tend to run in families. Common symptoms are: sneezing, itchy eyes, a stuffy or runny nose. Medications and avoiding the allergens can successfully treat allergies. Asthma affects nearly 23 million Americans, including 7 million children. Asthma attacks are episodes of inflammation and narrowing of the airways in response to asthma “triggers.” Causes are unknown, but it also tends to run in families. Asthma symptoms range from minor wheezing to life-threatening attacks; asthma can often be managed with medications. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is used to describe any long-term, non-reversible damage to the lungs that interferes with normal breathing. In the US, COPD is the 4th leading cause of death and the 2nd leading cause of disability. Common symptoms vary from mild to severe coughing, coughing with mucus, breathlessness, and lack of energy. While there is no cure – COPD can be managed with medications and changing to healthy lifestyle habits. Influenza (flu), also referred to as seasonal flu, is a highly contagious illness but everyone can reduce their chances of getting the seasonal flu by getting a seasonal influenza vaccine. Pneumonia is a common lung infection and in 2006, 1.2 million Americans were hospital- ized with pneumonia. Over 55,000 died from the disease. It is caused by bacteria, viruses and fungi – but most commonly it is caused by the flu. Symptoms are traditional flu-like symptoms, sometimes with rapid breathing and chest pain. Pneumonia responds well to medications, rest, and fluids, but may require hospitalization for severe conditions. Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease that usually attacks the lungs. It is caused by a type of bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Common symptoms are: cough, chest pain, bloody mucus, fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite, chills, fever, and night sweats. Tuberculosis can be treated with medication, but can be fatal if not treated properly. BREATH take a deep
Some of the things you can do to protect and improve your respiratory health are listed below: Stop Smoking Quitting is the best single thing you can do for your health! Smoking contributes to 80% and 90% of lung cancer deaths in women and men respectively. You CAN quit - help is available through your local hospital, support groups, family, and friends. Medical aids are also available including patches, gum, medications, and behavioral modification. Eat Right Respiratory diseases can make you gain or lose weight. It is important to maintain a healthy weight to avoid putting a strain on your respiratory system. Improve your respiratory health by eating foods rich in: Vitamin C – a powerful antioxidant that coats the surface of your airways and can help your lungs function better. Vitamin E – thought to prevent lung cancer by destroying cancer cells and helping your body’s immune system fight off respiratory infections. Carotenoids – found in leafy green vegetables, brussel sprouts, arugula, broccoli, carrots, apricots. Carotenoids are used to produce valuable vitamin A. Flavenoids – found in fruits and vegetables – help protect against inflammation and allergic reactions. Omega-3 Fatty Acids – can calm airways when they are irritated and inflamed. Omega-3s are mainly found in wild salmon, sardines, anchovies, walnuts and kiwis. Drink Up Water helps your respiratory function because it thins mucus, which can reduce coughing and make it easier to clear your airways. It also provides moisture necessary for your tissues. Get Moving Aerobic activities like walking, cycling and swimming help the body take in oxygen. Anaerobic exercises like stretching or lifting weights helps build muscle strength and strengthen the muscles used in breathing. Improve Your Air Quality Is your job literally making you sick? From hairdressing to coal mining, some professions can increase your exposure to harmful pollutants. Lung damage most typically occurs from constant, long-term exposure to harmful pollutants, which is why improving your air quality at work and at home is so important! Breathe! Every one of the 6 million breaths that we take every year brings us oxygen - our life’s fuel. Your breath health and the ability to breathe easily is a gift that must be nurtured and protected by caring for your respiratory health… your ability to engage in life depends on it!
Sleep Apnea is a potentially serious, quite common sleep disorder that causes breathing to stop briefly during sleep. It can be caused by changes to the muscles in the back of the throat or the brain’s failure to transmit the proper signals to the breathing muscles. Smoking is a major risk factor for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is often treated with lifestyle changes, medical aids, or surgery. Lung Cancer is the second most com- monly diagnosed cancer in both men and women and the most common cause of cancer death. While causes are not known, smok- ing is a major risk factor. Common symptoms are:chronic cough and/or coughing up blood; unexplained fever; weight loss and/or loss of appetite; hoarseness; wheezing; shortness of breath; chest pain; reoccurring bronchitis or pneumonia. Treatment methods vary but often in- clude surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and targeted drug therapy. Speak
with your doctor if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms.
Newly expanded pulmonary services at the NCH North Naples Hospital opens November 2, 2015. For more information about NCH Pulmonary Rehabilitation Services call (239) 624-6800.
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