As we close out November, we hope you’ll remember The Great American Smokeout and our Tobacco Prevention and Education Program efforts we focused on earlier this month. November is also Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Lung Cancer Awareness Month.
COPD is a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe. Lung cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the lungs, usually in the cells that line the air passages. The causes of COPD and lung cancer are similar. About 85-90% of cases are caused by smoking, but nonsmokers can get COPD or lung cancer, too. Other risk factors include exposure to second hand smoke, exposure to radon or other pollution, and genetics.
At every stage of life, think about how to maintain health:
- For developing fetuses, this means first and foremost reducing exposure to nicotine and tobacco product exposure.
- Talk to your children about the dangers of vaping and cigarette use.
- Middle school is a good time to start having these conversations. The American Lung Association has some great resources to jump start conversations with your children about vaping.
- During childhood, think about air quality within the home and outside of it. The American Lung Association website has some great resources on how to protect the air you breathe.
- Ensure children have their age appropriate, recommended vaccinations. Some new research suggests peak fitness levels in young adulthood are also associated with lung function later in life, so if you’re not exercising regularly, now is a good time to start.
- If you or your children are experiencing prolonged shortness of breath or cough, don’t wait to talk to your health care provider about having your lungs evaluated. The bottom line is that it is never too late to begin investing in your respiratory health.
You can lower your COPD and lung cancer risk in several ways:
- Quit smoking or don’t start.
- Avoid secondhand tobacco smoke.
- Aim for a healthy weight.
- Be physically active.
- Limit exposure to outdoor air pollution.
- Reduce indoor air pollution.
- Take precautions against seasonal flu and pneumonia.
- Test your home for radon gas.
- Use protective gear if exposed to indoor or outdoor air pollution.
Article adapted from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, American Lung Association and the CDC.