Imagine a world where you can breathe freely and easily, without any pain or discomfort. Your lungs are healthy and strong, and you can enjoy every moment of life. Unfortunately, for millions of people around the world, this is not the reality.
According to the latest estimates, over 480 million people have COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease globally, making it the third deadliest disease in the world. COPD is closely linked to the quality of the air we breathe, which is often poor and harmful in many parts of the world. According to the Air Quality Index (AQI), a measure of air pollution levels, many cities and countries have unhealthy or hazardous air quality, which can worsen COPD symptoms and increase the risk of developing the disease. Therefore, we need to take action to improve the air quality in our communities, by reducing emissions, fighting against indoor and outdoor air pollution, and advocating for clean energy sources. To raise awareness, share knowledge, and discuss solutions for COPD, World COPD Day is celebrated globally on November 18. The theme for this year is “Breathing is Life- Act Earlier” which aims to inspire people to take action for their lung health and for others.
Understanding COPD and avoiding the Risk Factors
World COPD Day 2023 is an opportunity to join the global effort to fight COPD and to make a difference in the lives of millions of people who suffer from this disease. COPD is a group of lung diseases that cause:
- Breathing problems
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
COPD can also increase the risk of other health problems, such as heart disease, lung cancer, depression, and osteoporosis.
COPD is often caused by multiple factors such as:
- Air pollution
- Occupational exposure
- Childhood infections
COPD often develops slowly and may not cause noticeable symptoms until it is advanced. Therefore, many people with COPD are unaware of their condition and do not receive timely diagnosis and treatment. Most people are at least 40 years old when symptoms of COPD first appear. However, exposure to risk factors could make them more prone to develop the disease earlier.
Acting earlier for COPD
Acting earlier for COPD can not only benefit one personally, but also the society and the environment, by reducing the health care costs, the productivity losses, and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with COPD.
- Preventing early risk factors, such as smoking, air pollution, and occupational hazards, that can damage the lungs and cause inflammation and scarring.
- Monitoring lung health from birth, especially for people who have a family history of COPD or other lung diseases, or who have asthma or other respiratory conditions.
- Understanding your genetic predispositions and taking proactive measures for prevention and management.
- Diagnosing COPD in a precursor state, such as pre-COPD or PRISm, which are conditions that indicate a higher risk of developing COPD in the future.
- Providing treatment promptly, such as bronchodilators, steroids, antibiotics, oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation, and surgery, to improve lung function, reduce symptoms, prevent complications, and enhance quality of life.
Every year many activities and campaigns are organized by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) and other organizations, such as the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the COPD Foundation, to raise awareness and advocate for COPD. You can also join these campaigns and show your support in many ways, learning more about COPD and its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention, sharing your knowledge and experience with others, especially with people who may have COPD or who are at risk of developing it, taking action to protect your lungs and the lungs of others, by quitting smoking, avoiding exposure to lung irritants, getting vaccinated, and improving indoor and outdoor air quality.
Breathing is life, and COPD can take away your breath. But you can act earlier to prevent and treat COPD, and to breathe better and live longer. Breath is the link between mind and body and it can still be a good day if the only thing you did was breathe.