Did you know that disorders of the respiratory system can leave you tired, weak, breathless and even prevent you from enjoying life? Knowing your risk and what you can do to keep your respiratory system functioning at its best is crucial to healthy living and creating the life you want.
Allergies occur when our immune system falsely reacts to otherwise harmless substances called allergens. Causes are unknown, but they tend to run in families. Common symptoms are sneezing, itchy eyes, a stuffy or runny nose. Medications and avoiding the allergens can successfully treat allergies.
Asthma affects nearly 23 million Americans, including 7 million children. Asthma attacks are episodes of inflammation and narrowing of the airways in response to asthma “triggers.” Causes are unknown, but it also tends to run in families. Asthma symptoms range from minor wheezing to life- threatening attacks. Asthma can often be managed with medications.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is used to describe any long-term, non- reversible damage to the lungs that interferes with normal breathing. In the US, COPD is the 4th leading cause of death. Common symptoms vary from mild to severe coughing, coughing with mucus, breathlessness, and lack of energy. While there is no cure–COPD can be managed with medications and healthy lifestyle habits.
Sleep Apnea is a potentially serious, quite common sleep disorder that causes breathing to stop briefly during sleep. It can be caused by changes to the muscles in the back of the throat or the brain’s failure to transmit the proper signals to the breathing muscles. Sleep apnea is often treated with lifestyle changes, medical aids, or surgery. Talk to your doctor about a referral to Mercy Sleep Disorders Center or visit cantonmercy.org/sleep.
Lung Cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women and the most common cause of cancer death. Smoking is a major risk factor. Common symptoms are chronic cough and/or coughing up blood; unexplained fever; weight loss and/or loss of appetite; hoarseness; wheezing; shortness of breath; chest pain; reoccurring bronchitis or pneumonia.
Treatment methods vary but often include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and targeted drug therapy. Speak with your doctor if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms. To learn more about Mercy Lung Center, visit cantonmercy.org/cancer/lung-center or call 330-458-4214 to speak with our Lung Nurse Navigator.
Some things you can do to protect and improve your respiratory health:
Stop Smoking. Quitting is the best single thing you can do for your health. Smoking contributes to 80% to 90% of lung cancer deaths in women and men respectively. You CAN quit. Help is available. Mercy Medical Center’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Department offers Tobacco-Free You, a tobacco treatment program designed to help you stop smoking for good. For more information, visit cantonmercy.org/smoking-cessationor call 330-430-2759.
Eat Right. Respiratory disease can make you gain or lose weight. it is important to maintain a healthy weight to avoid putting a strain on your respiratory system. Improve your respiratory health by eating foods rich in:
- Vitamin C–a powerful antioxidant that coats the surface of your airways and can help your lungs function better.
- Vitamin E–thought to prevent lung cancer by destroying cancer cells and helping your body’s immune system fight off respiratory infections.
- Carotenoids–found in leafy green vegetables, Brussels sprouts, arugula, broccoli, carrots, apricots. Carotenoids are used to produce valuable vitamin A.
- Flavonoids–found in fruits and vegetables–help protect against inflammation and allergic reactions.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids–can calm airways when they are irritated and inflamed. Omega-3s are mainly found in wild salmon, sardines, anchovies, walnuts and kiwis.
Drink Up. Water helps your respiratory function because it thins mucus, which can reduce coughing and make it easier to clear your airways. It also provides moisture necessary for your tissues.
Get Moving. Aerobic activities like walking, cycling and swimming help the body take in oxygen. Anaerobic exercises like stretching or lifting weights helps build muscle strength and strengthen the muscles used in breathing.
Improving Your Air Quality. Lung damage most typically occurs from constant, long-term exposure to harmful pollutants, which is why improving your air quality at work and at home is so important.
Breathe! Every one of the 6 million breaths that we take every year brings us oxygen–our life’s fuel. Your breath health and the ability to breathe easily is a gift that must be nurtured and protected by caring for your respiratory health…your ability to engage in life depends on it.
Therapy for Those With Chronic Lung Disease
In 2007, Mercy Pulmonary Rehabilitation became the first program in Stark County to be certified by the American Association of Cardiovascular & Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR).
The goal of Mercy Pulmonary Rehabilitation is to improve the quality of life for individuals with chronic lung disease. We offer education, breathing retraining, emotional support and graded exercise conditioning in coordination with your personal physician.
For more information, visit cantonmercy.org/pulmonary-rehabilitation or call 330-489-1270.