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October Is Healthy Lung Month

September 21, 2014 Health Awareness Days, General 0 Comments

October is Healthy Lung Month. Throughout the month, several organizations spearhead a national effort to raise awareness about the dangers of lung diseases, their prevention and their treatment.

October Is Healthy Lung Month Lung Diseases

Every major type of lung disease includes a variety of forms and stages, and your risk of contracting one is higher if you smoke, have a family history of lung disease or have been exposed to harmful substances. Among the many kinds of lung diseases, these five are most prevalent:

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): COPD, the third-leading cause of death in the United States, is incurable. Resulting primarily from smoking, it is a progressive process that destroys the lungs' tiny air sacs, called alveoli, and makes breathing difficult.
  • Lung Cancer: The National Cancer Institute reports that 200,000 Americans are diagnosed with lung cancer every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking causes nearly nine out of every 10 incidents of lung cancer.
  • Asthma: Asthma is an incurable and potentially life-threatening disease that inflames and blocks airways. The American Lung Association (ALA) reports that nearly 25 million Americans suffered from asthma in 2011. Fortunately, it responds to available treatments.
  • Pneumonia: Pneumonia is an infection in one or both lungs. Treatable in most cases, it can be deadly to the elderly, young children and people with certain risk factors.
  • Pulmonary Embolism: A pulmonary embolism is a life-threatening clot that has broken off from a blood vessel and lodged in the lungs. If detected in time, the clot can be broken up either chemically or manually.

Preventing Lung Disease

Depending on the severity of the disease and other factors, most lung diseases are curable or can be treated. The best treatment begins with prevention. Among the steps you can take, the most important is to stop smoking. Cigarette smoking is the single most destructive thing you can do to your lungs and is also the most preventable cause of lung disease. According to the ALA, there are over 600 ingredients in cigarettes. When a cigarette burns, it creates 7,000 chemicals, 69 of which are carcinogens.

Because the beneficial effects begin almost immediately after quitting, it's never too late to stop smoking. If you have trouble quitting, see your healthcare professional. A number of products, available over the counter and by prescription, along with cessation services, are available to help.

There are other ways to reduce your risk of lung disease, as well. Avoid exposure to asbestos, dust, secondhand smoke, chemical fumes and polluted air. In spite of strict government regulations and an industry-wide effort, you still run the risk of asbestos exposure, often without even knowing it. Many older structures still have asbestos shingles, for example. Avoiding air pollution is nearly impossible if you live near large metropolitan areas; however, you can still contribute toward a solution by driving less and using as little electricity as possible. Every individual effort counts.

Staying in good health is a powerful preventive measure and a critical step in treating lung disease. Losing weight and eating a healthy diet is a simple, yet great start. Vaccinations are available to ward off certain types of influenza and pneumonia. This is especially important to know if you're over 65 or if you have other risk factors.

If you are a student in the healthcare field, Healthy Lung Month is an excellent educational opportunity. Whether you are a student or not, though, helping to raise awareness for lung disease is a tremendous public service.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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