Short of Breath
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, more commonly referred to as COPD, is one of the most significant health problems facing adults in Canada. COPD is a leading cause of death, falling just behind heart disease, cancer, and accidents. In fact, it’s slated to become the third leading cause by 2020. COPD is a progressive disease that leads not only to shortness of breath, but also to wheezing, chest pains, mucus production, and a whole host of other symptoms. The disease is symptomatic in middle age but then becomes increasingly severe with age. What often begins as a small cough at age 40 later becomes a constant struggle just to breathe normally.
In Canada 15% of seniors between the ages of 65 and 69 were living with COPD; for seniors aged 85 years and older, 26% were living with COPD.
Because of its progressive nature and with increased age as a leading factor, there is a greater prevalence of COPD in adults 65 years of age or older. The good news is that many adults are able to easily reduce their risk of COPD through lifestyle management. We’ll explore some of the best practices that older adults can follow later in this article, but first, let’s take a closer look at COPD itself.
What Exactly is COPD?
COPD actually represents a group of lung diseases, with the two most common being emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The former involves the over-inflation of the lungs’ air sacs, causing shortness of breath. Bronchitis, on the other hand, is the inflammation of the lining of the tubes responsible for carrying air to and from the lungs. Ordinarily, bronchitis results from a respiratory illness or cold and generally leaves no lasting side effects. The chronic form of bronchitis – lasting months or years – can leave the airways blocked from excessive amounts of mucus. And as this mucus production increases, the more difficult it is to breathe.
Those with chronic bronchitis tend to develop emphysema over time, which is why the two comprise COPD. As for the primary culprit for the disease? Smoking tops the list. The American Lung Association even estimates that anywhere between 80-90% of COPD cases are the result of chronic smoking of cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Unsurprisingly, secondhand smoke is a significant risk factor as well. Research also suggests that there may be a link between poor air quality and COPD – not to mention several other airway diseases.
There’s no denying the fact that COPD is detrimental to our wellbeing. As we begin to age, its effects can rapidly diminish quality of life and even contribute to mortality. But as mentioned previously, it doesn’t have to be that way. Senior clients can reduce their risk of COPD (or slow its progression) with a few best practices.
COPD Risk Reduction Tips
- Don’t smoke or take steps to quit. If quitting, be sure to talk with your primary care physician about which programs/support services or products are most appropriate. Quitting smoking will reduce the risk of heart disease, lung cancer, and a number of other diseases/cancers, in addition to COPD.
- Avoid any contact with secondhand smoke. If you’re going to a restaurant/event where smoking is permitted, ask to be seated in a non-smoking location. Similarly, be conscious of people smoking near you and try to avoid their smoking vicinity if possible.
- Avoid air pollution whenever possible.
- Avoid any airborne irritants (chemicals, fumes, etc.) in the home, workplace, or other environments.
- With physician approval, follow a healthy diet and get plenty of exercise.
Comfort Keepers® Can Help
At Comfort Keepers®, we want to help senior clients safeguard themselves from COPD. Whether it means reducing their risk altogether or slowing its progression, our team of expert care professionals will help clients follow the steps above and see that they’re following a safe, healthy lifestyle. Additionally, if clients are being treated for COPD or need to discuss their options with a physician, we can help them get to and from any scheduled appointments.
Learn more about Comfort Keepers’ care services today by calling a location nearest you.
Government of Canada. “Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in Canada” Web. 2018.
MedScape. “COPD in the Elderly Patient” by Nicola A. Hanania, M.D., M.S.; Gulshan Sharma, M.D., M.P.H.;
Amir Sharafkhaneh, M.D., Ph.D. Web. 2018.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. COPD. Web. 2018.
Healthline. “Everything You Need to Know About Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).” Web. 2018.
Everyday Health. “5 Best Ways to Prevent COPD” by Chris Iliades, MD. Web. 2018.
Very Well Health. “The 4 Preventable Causes of COPD” by Deborah Leader, RN. Web. 2018.