Everyone at risk for COPD who has cough, sputum production, or shortness of breath, should be tested for the disease. The test for COPD is called spirometry.
Spirometry can detect COPD before symptoms become severe. It is a simple, non-invasive breathing test that measures the amount of air a person can blow out of the lungs (volume) and how fast he or she can blow it out (flow). Based on this test, your doctor or healthcare provider can tell if you have COPD, and if so, how severe it is. The spirometry reading can help them to determine the best course of treatment.
How Spirometry Works
Spirometry is one of the best and most common lung function tests. The test is done with a spirometer, a machine that measures how well your lungs function, records the results, and displays them on a graph. You will be asked to take a deep breath, then blow out as hard and as fast as you can using a mouthpiece connected to the machine with tubing. The spirometer then measures the total amount exhaled, called the forced vital capacity or FVC, and how much you exhaled in the first second, called the forced expiratory volume (FEV) in one second. Your doctor or healthcare provider will read the results to assess how well your lungs are working and whether or not you have COPD.
Pulmonary Rehab"Pulmonary rehabilitation is a breathing program based on the highest level of scientific evidence that can improve patients' lives. We need to improve the quality of life of COPD patients now and not wait decades for a cure. My husband, Ted, and I have used our resources to locate other partners to help establish pulmonary rehabilitation centers where there are none. There are not enough pulmonary rehab centers and, where they do exist, it's in the big cities." —Grace Anne Koppel
(Read her interview, here.)
There are many things people at risk for COPD can do:
If you smoke, the best thing you can do to prevent more damage to your lungs is to quit. To help you quit, there are many online resources and several new aids available from your doctor or healthcare provider. The National Cancer Institute has information on smoking cessation (SmokeFree.gov or call 1-800-QUIT NOW), as does the American Lung Association (www.lung.org/) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov/tobacco/quit_smoking/index.htm).
Avoid Exposure to Pollutants
Try to stay away from other things that could irritate your lungs, like dust and strong fumes. Stay indoors when the outside air quality is poor. You should also stay away from places where there might be cigarette smoke.
Visit Your Doctor or Healthcare Provider on a Regular Basis
See your doctor or healthcare provider regularly, even if you are feeling fine. Make a list of your breathing symptoms and think about any activities that you can no longer do because of shortness of breath. Be sure to bring a list of all the medicines you are taking to each office visit.
Take Precautions Against Seasonal Flu
Get the seasonal flu shot to protect against viruses predicted to cause disease in the winter season. Do your best to avoid crowds during flu season. In addition to avoiding people with the flu, remembering to wash and sanitize your hands can be one of the best ways to guard against getting sick. It is also a good idea to get a flu shot every year, since the flu can cause serious problems for people with COPD. You should also ask your doctor or healthcare provider about the pneumonia vaccine.
(See more about seasonal flu in "Time to Get Your Seasonal Flu Shot" here.)