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If you’re slowing down due to shortness of breath, talk to your doctor or health care provider. Get a simple breathing test. Learn more—breathe better.
(NAPS)—Many people expect to slow down as they get older. We aren’t surprised to feel “out of breath” when doing a little yard work or washing the car. But feeling short of breath isn’t normal at any age. Slowing down or stopping an activity because you can’t catch your breath is one sign of COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In COPD, the airways of the lungs are narrowed, making it hard to get air out and causing an “out of breath” feeling. Other symptoms can include frequent coughing, excess mucus and sometimes wheezing.
Most people with COPD are over 40 and have a history of smoking or long-term exposure to fumes or dust in the environment. But one out of six people with COPD have never smoked. In some cases, there is a genetic tendency to develop COPD.
If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms, there is hope. Many treatments are available to reduce symptoms, improve breathing, and help you get back to doing more of what you used to do. The first step is getting an accurate diagnosis.
If you think you might have COPD, talk to your doctor or health care provider about taking a simple breathing test called spirometry. This test can be done right in their office. You simply breathe out as hard and fast as you can into a tube connected to machine that measures your lung function. Spirometry helps your doctor or health care provider determine if you have COPD and decide on the best course of treatment.
If you find out you have COPD, you’re not alone. COPD affects one in four older Americans and claims 120,000 lives each year. It is the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States. You can find out more at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/copd/ . This educational Web site is part of a COPD program from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.