Why Teens Need to Know that November is COPD Awareness Month
Leonard Nimoy died from it, Christy Turlington suffers with it and Amy Winehouse had it. COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S. More than 120,000 Americans die each year from this disease. COPD can cause long term disability. More than 12 million Americans have this disease, and experts believe another 12 million Americans are unaware that they have COPD. Doctors believe that you can manage your risk for developing COPD and live a longer life by:
• Recognizing the risk factors
• Knowing the early symptoms
• Taking a breathing screening test
• Following your doctors treatment plan diligently
Smoking, pollutants and fumes are key risk factors for developing COPD. If you have shortness of breath, a chronic cough, or breathing challenges with simple daily life tasks like climbing stairs, doing the laundry or grocery shopping (carrying items or pushing the cart), then you may have COPD.
Some new research has changed the perception that this disease is a mature adult disease. Having a rare genetic disorder called alpha-trypsin deficiency has been identified as a risk factor for early COPD in otherwise healthy non-smokers. A recent study identified early changes in the lungs of certain teens, associated with early COPD. This research showed that suboptimal lung development during childhood and teen years could be a major determinant of COPD later in life. The findings suggest that it’s crucial to prevent smoking, treat asthma optimally and reduce secondhand smoke exposure in children and adolescents to limit this possible influence and outcome. Parents and doctors need to partner together to help limit the risk factors for COPD in younger individuals.
Of course, adults also need to manage their risk factors by not smoking or quitting the habit, avoiding the types of pollutants that raise your risk for COPD, and getting screening spirometry when appropriate. If you have COPD then it’s also crucial to get a yearly flu vaccine; a pneumonia vaccine when you’re older is also recommended. Enrolling in a pulmonary rehabilitation program can also help you to manage your disease and maximize your quality-of-life.
The study’s findings should be a wake-up call for teens and parents. COPD, though typically a disease associated with an older population, may have its roots of development in the young.