All I want to do in the winter is snuggle under some warm blankets with a good book and cup of cocoa, as I’m sure many of you can agree with. I would also take a guess that you tend to get sick around this time of the year. Hello runny nose, sore throat and exhaustion! So I thought there would be no better time to share a quick guide on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle to help prevent a serious chronic lung disease, one issue that hits close to home for me.
What are some chronic lung conditions?
COPD is a chronic lung disease that obstructs airflow from the lungs and generally develops later in life. Adults over 40 may begin to have symptoms like a dry cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, or a tight chest. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the most common conditions of COPD. Fabgrandpa has COPD. When we worked at the Grand Canyon, at an altitude of almost 9,000 feet, he had a really difficult time acclimating to the climate there. Every spring, he wound up in the emergency room, getting breathing treatments. He also gets bronchitis frequently when seasons change.
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos. The most common type of mesothelioma, comprising about 80% of cases, is pleural mesothelioma, which affects the thin tissue surrounding the lungs. Some symptoms include difficulty breathing, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, and fluid build up.
Asthma is more common, tends to be diagnosed during childhood, and can be triggered by exercise, allergies, or inhaled particles and gasses. This can cause coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightened airways. My youngest daughter had asthma when she was growing up. Her attacks could be triggered by excitement, such as a birthday party or Christmas. She was allergic to live Christmas trees, and had an asthma attack every year at Christmas until her doctor told me to take down the tree. We had an artificial tree after that.
Lung cancer is sadly the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S with over 200,000 new cases per year. Similar to some of the other conditions, symptoms include a dry, phlegmy cough, weakness and loss of appetite, frequent respiratory infections, shortness of breath, and hoarseness.
Tips to Help Prevent Lung Disease
Though there are treatments for these conditions, many of them can’t be completely cured. But who want’s to deal with the symptoms, tediousness and sometimes pain of treatment? Don’t worry though! Follow a few of these preventative tips instead.
- Avoid smoke: Tobacco smoke is related to about 90% of cancer cases and about 80% of COPD deaths. It can also trigger asthma attacks for some people. The American Lung Association has some great resources to help you quit here, because it’s never too late. Did you know your risk for lung cancer drops by half after 10 years of being smoke free? That’s amazing!
- Avoid air pollution: Okay I know this one’s hard because air pollution is essentially everywhere, but it is important to know that even the air you breath outside, where you think of fresh pure air, can be hazardous and incite asthma and COPD. Air pollution is not just the smoke from power plants and factories that you might be imagining, but it also comes from fireplaces, vehicles, and even natural wildfires, volcanoes, and dust storms. Though you alone can’t stop air pollution, you can watch your carbon footprint and monitor your own intake of dirty air by checking the daily air quality forecast before you exercise outside.
- Avoid hidden toxins: Asbestos is a natural mineral used in many homes for insulation, floor tiles, shingles, and much more. It is still legal to use asbestos in the U.S. even though it is well know that it causes the cancer mesothelioma. Protect yourself by hiring a professional to check your home for asbestos before renovations if your home was built before the 1980s and NEVER try to remove it yourself. Even inhaling the tiniest particle is not safe. You can even use your voice and contact your representatives to get the EPA to ban asbestos once and for all!
- Use an artificial Christmas tree. While not everyone is allergic to the trees used as Christmas trees, they can contain pollen, dust, mites, and aphids that can trigger an asthma attack when used indoors. Using an artificial tree can prevent having an attack of a chronic lung disease during the holidays.
- 5. A second harmful indoor toxin is radon, which can cause lung cancer with long-term exposure. Found naturally in the soil and bedrock of certain areas, elevated radon levels occur in about 1 in 15 homes in the U.S. Protect yourself from this colorless, odorless gas by getting your home professionally tested or by using an at home test kit.
Additionally, there are many toxins that you may be unaware of in products that are ironically supposed to be making your house cleaner. Use this guide to know whether your cleaner contains harmful toxins or if it’s a-ok. A good rule of thumb is if you can’t pronounce the chemical ingredient name, it’s probably not healthy for you to be breathing.
What do you do to protect your lungs and stay healthy during the winter months? Comment below with your thoughts!
*Note: I am not a doctor so please consult your doctor if you are having any symptoms or believe that you might have a lung disease.