You Leave Me Breathless: World COPD day 2021 draws attention to rising COPD
Every year on November 17, the world comes together to recognize the danger posed by chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD). The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) in collaboration with medical professionals and COPD patients organizes a World COPD day on November 17. The theme for World COPD day 2021 was “Healthy Lungs – Never More Important”.
For most Indians, the irony is not lost on us. India continues to grapple with air pollution and as per the last study conducted in 2016, at least 140 million people continue to breathe air that is well over the WHO safe limit – 10 time over, to be precise. That is not all. Air pollution is thought to have caused the death of over 2 million Indians every year. How, then, are we supposed to maintain healthy lungs?
The severity of the situation is highlighted every year but all pleas fall on deaf ears. India’s northern states, in particular, deal with the worst air pollution levels come winter season every year. Delhi NCR is notorious for its high pollution levels, which are exacerbated by the yearly smog that engulfs the metropolis. Blanketed by an impenetrable wall of smog, the question of ‘healthy lungs’ is lost in the haze.
Doctors and medical professionals have cautioned residents from venturing out unless it was absolutely necessary. According to experts, air pollution causes COPD without a doubt. Continuous exposure to noxious particles and gases present in smog leads to COPD development in many individuals. Dr. Virendra Singh, pulmonologist, SMS hospital, said, “Persistent exposure to the risk factors and repeated respiratory infections can aggravate the underlying COPD, leading to a lung attack.”
What is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a medical condition wherein the airways narrow and traps air in the lungs. This causes severe respiratory problems for the patient and is characterized by persistent and progressive breathlessness, cough, sputum production, and wheezing.
As the name suggests, chronic means that this is a long-term effect that does not go away easily. Most people lack awareness about this medical problem and are likely to dismiss signs like breathlessness and sputum production to a simple cold or flu.
Causes of COPD
Healthcare professionals and doctors unanimously agree that air pollution causes COPD. Long-term exposure to irritants and particulate matter in the atmosphere does irreparable damage to the lungs and airways. Over time, the exposed individual gradually shows symptoms of COPD. If not correctly diagnosed and treated, it can prove fatal eventually.
This is another contributing factor to COPD. Lack of awareness about COPD leads to complacency on part of the affected individual. In the long run, the combination of complacency, lack of awareness, and exposure to air pollution often lead to a deadly conclusion.
A timely diagnosis of COPD allows the individual to take action to contain its worsening. A combination of exercise, lifestyle changes, and medical treatment is an effective remedy against COPD.
- An active lifestyle frees up the airways and improves breathing. Regular exercise is a good way to start out. However, it is advisable to avoid more strenuous exercises that might cause breathlessness.
- Breathing exercises are another way of coping with breathlessness. Learning breathing techniques and positions will allow the individual to regulate their breathing.
- A balanced diet does many wonders for all sorts of ailments, COPD treatment being one of them. Consulting a dietician or a medical practitioner is recommended to gain insight on food types one must avoid maintaining a healthy weight. Remember, weight has an effect on your breathing ability.
In keeping with the World COPD day 2021 theme, a concentrated effort is needed to mitigate air pollution in India. Rhetoric will do us no good when we are choking on our own words. The time for action is now. Healthy lungs have never been more important than right now.