Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is the third leading cause of disease-related death in the United States. Although millions of people have been diagnosed with COPD, there’s still a lot of misinformation about the disease. 

November is National COPD Awareness Month, and if you or someone you know suffers from this chronic lung disease, it’s a great time to learn the facts — and dispel the myths — surrounding its cause and its treatment. 

At Vein & Cardiovascular Center, we use state-of-the-art pulmonary function testing at our locations in Orlando, Sebring, and Davenport, Florida, to help COPD patients understand and manage their disease. 

Here are four of the most common myths about COPD, along with the real information about the disease and what you can do to improve your quality of life if you have COPD.

Myth 1: If you’re not a smoker, you can’t get COPD.

It’s true that COPD, like other lung diseases, is more common among people who smoke. But even if you’ve never smoked, you can still develop COPD. That’s the case for as many as 25% of COPD patients.

While smoking certainly increases your risk of developing COPD, long-term or regular exposure to other lung irritants like air pollution, chemicals, and even dust can cause COPD, too. 

Myth 2: If you have COPD, there’s no point in quitting smoking.

Wrong. While quitting smoking won’t cure or reverse COPD, kicking the habit can slow its progression, making it easier to treat and easier to manage your symptoms. Plus, quitting smoking can reduce your risk of symptom flare-ups and help you retain better lung function.

COPD is a cumulative disease, which means the sooner you quit smoking, the better.

Myth 3: If you have COPD, you can’t exercise.

In fact, not only can you exercise, but you absolutely should be physically active. Exercise doesn’t just benefit your lungs — it benefits your entire body, helping you maintain better function and a better quality of life. 

Regular exercise helps your lungs use oxygen more efficiently. It also increases your overall stamina so it’s easier to stay physically active, even with diminished lung function due to COPD. Plus, it can help you avoid feeling depressed or stressed by COPD and its symptoms.

The key to exercising with COPD is to work with a physical therapist who can teach you optimized breathing techniques, along with exercises and stretches designed to help your lungs work better. 

And just like with quitting smoking, the sooner you begin a regular exercise routine, the more benefits you enjoy.

Myth 4: There’s no effective treatment to manage my symptoms.

There’s no cure for COPD (yet), but there are plenty of things you can do to manage your symptoms more effectively and even help prevent the disease from getting worse.

First, medications like inhaled corticosteroids and bronchodilators can help reduce inflammation and irritation in your airways and your lungs, making breathing easier.

If you have emphysema, supplemental oxygen can help provide your lungs with more oxygen, benefiting not only your lungs, but your other organs, as well.

Pulmonary rehabilitation and physical therapy help many patients enjoy normal activity and function by teaching them breathing techniques and improving their stamina.

Lifestyle changes, like eating a healthy diet, losing excess weight, and getting plenty of rest, can optimize your health and wellness so you feel better overall. 

And finally, it’s important to get your flu shot and the pneumonia vaccine to help prevent diseases that also affect the lungs. All these steps can greatly reduce your symptoms.

Get help for your COPD

COPD has a direct effect on the lungs, so it’s considered a lung disease. But because it decreases the amount of oxygen your lungs can take in and process, COPD can have more far-reaching effects. 

Less oxygen in your lungs means less oxygen for the rest of your organs, too, and that can contribute to organ dysfunction and organ failure over time. 

If you have COPD, regular lung function testing can play an important role in helping you manage your disease. At Vein & Cardiovascular Center, we help our COPD patients reduce their symptoms while also supporting better lung function and an improved quality of life. 

Call one of our three Florida locations or use our online scheduling form to learn how we can help you manage your COPD more effectively.

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