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Save Your Breath,

Prevent Emphysema Now!

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Early Detection

Early discovery of a breathing problem and appropriate treatment can
prevent the disease from progressing to the point that it seriously
affects the way you live and work.

Anyone who has an ongoing cough or shortness of breath, even if it
seems minor, should see his or her doctor. Morning cough, for example, is
not normal. It is usually a result of smoking and indicates that there is
irritation and swelling within the lung. Shortness of breath while
exercising, climbing stairs, or walking can also be a sign of a breathing
problem. Many people simply feel that they are “out of shape”, slowing
down, or getting older when, in fact, they are working harder to

Breathing Tests

man holding spirometer to this mouthA
spirometer can tell whether your breathing is normal. It
takes only a couple of minutes to blow into this machine, which can detect
a change in your breathing ability even before you do. Fortunately, many
have a spirometer in their offices. The next time you see a
doctor, ask for a spirometry test (lung function test), if you think you
might have COPD or asthma.

Remember, when you take a spirometry test, no needles are involved. You
don’t have to take off your clothes. This test is not painful and will not
cause you any discomfort. All you have to do is fill your lungs
completely, pause, and then blow out all the air you can in six seconds.
This test will give two numbers for you and your doctor to understand
together. The first number is the forced expiratory volume in one second
(FEV1). This is the total amount of
air you blow out in the first second. The total amount of air you blow out
in six seconds is called the FEV6.
Most people can blow all or most of the air out of their lungs in six

“Test Your Lungs, Know Your Numbers” is the motto of
the NLHEP. Most people know their blood pressure and cholesterol numbers
and can tell if these numbers get higher or lower. You also should record
your spirometry test results for future comparisons. Spirometry will help
you determine if you do have or don’t have any amount of airflow problems.
If you have any abnormal airflow, this could mean that you’re on the
pathway to developing emphysema or related chronic bronchitis. Prevent
emphysema now, and you will not have to face it later. Breathing tests
should be done on anyone who may be at risk for developing COPD, such as
those who smoke or who have family members with one of these diseases. Use
this checklist to help you decide if you should see your doctor about
having a breathing test.

  1. Does asthmatic bronchitis, chronic bronchitis,
    or emphysema run
    in your family?
  2. Do you or have you ever smoked?
  3. Are you short of breath more often than other people?
  4. Do you cough?
  5. If you cough, do you cough up yellow or green mucus?
  6. Are you exposed to someone else’s smoke?If the answer to any of the above qu yes,
    you should see your doctor for a breathing test.

    After taking the test, you can ask your doctor these

  7. Are my breathing measurements abnormal?
  8. How abnormal are they?
  9. Is the problem one that can be treated with drugs and/or by stopping
  10. Is the abnormality worsening? 11. What exactly should I do for my

Even if your airflow is normal on the test, you are at a significantly
increased risk of developing lung cancer or having a heart attack or
stroke if you continue to smoke.