2010 Marks "The Year of the Lung"
Global Collaborative Focuses on Worldwide Lung Health
Unless you have to struggle for each breath, it’s unlikely that you spend a lot of time thinking about your lungs. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of millions of people worldwide who fight to breathe because of lung diseases like asthma, pneumonia, influenza, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).
Last year, the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) declared 2010 "The Year of the Lung," recognizing those around the world who suffer each year from treatable and preventable chronic respiratory disease. Oct. 27 is observed as Lung Health Day.
Dr. Carmencita Agcaoili, Medical Director of the Intensivist Program at Washington Hospital, urges people in the local community to take to heart this message of lung health, starting with smoking cessation.
"Locally, we’re very committed to promoting lung health," she says. "California is still one of the leaders in smoking cessation programs in the United States, particularly because we’re one of the states that have no smoking requirements in restaurants. We’ve done very well on this front. And at Washington Hospital, we are very proactive in terms of American Lung Association smoking cessation programs."
But even with smoking cessation programs and medication, quitting smoking can be a long, tough road.
"The sad part is it’s very hard to quit smoking," Dr. Agcaoili says. "The failure rate is still 40 percent with medication and behavioral therapy, and there’s a lot of recurrence. My message is: if you are thinking about quitting, just do it. You have to persevere."
Quitting smoking can be one of the most important steps you take if you have been diagnosed with COPD or are having trouble breathing, according to Rose Stortz, RCP, a Pulmonary Rehabilitation Specialist at Washington Hospital.
Stortz points to some startling American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) statistics:
- Over 16 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD and another 16 million have COPD but don’t know it.
- Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD.
- By 2020, COPD will become the third leading cause of death in the United States.
Stortz also notes that in addition to smoking cessation, it’s just as important for people with jobs that expose them to toxic or irritating substances to be aware of the potential impact on their lung health.
To ensure early detection and effective treatment of a variety of occupational lung diseases, including occupational lung cancer, occupational asthma, COPD, coal worker’s pneumoconiosis and others, Stortz advises regular physical check-ups with a general practitioner or lung specialist.
"There is no greater gift than time," Stortz says. "Decisions that we make with regard to our lung health will directly determine the amount of this gift. Take care of your lungs—give the gift of time to yourself as well as your family."
According to Dr. Agcaoili, something many people don’t recognize is the relationship between smoking and other non-lung related diseases that can drastically impact health.
"Smoking has been linked to colorectal and liver cancer, and secondhand smoking has been linked to breast cancer and esophageal cancer," she points out. "Plus, there’s a link to coronary artery disease and peptic ulcer disease.
"If you continue to smoke with lung cancer, you have higher risk to get a second primary cancer."
Smoking also impacts heart disease, gastrointestinal health and risk for peripheral vascular diseases and stroke, Dr. Agcaoili says. Plus, for those who care about their physical appearance, smoking speeds the appearance of wrinkles.
"I think smoking is still the most preventable thing you can do for lung disease," she says. "There are other causes, but quitting smoking is a major preventive measure.
"In the end, when thinking about your overall lung health, it’s not just smoking cessation, but also your environment, which can impact asthma and COPD."
Take the first step toward healthier lungs
If you’ve been thinking about quitting smoking, now is the time to reach your goal. On Monday, November 15, you can learn about the right tools and information to quit during a free Health & Wellness Seminar. The seminar, presented by a physician specializing in pulmonary medicine and facilitated by a registered nurse trained by the American Cancer society, will be held from 12 to 2 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, Rooms A and B.
To register, visit www.whhs.com or call (800) 963-7070.