Take our quiz to test your knowledge about the lung disease that affects an estimated 24 million Americans.
1. Your chances of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are highest if you’re:
b) a smoker
c) an office worker
2. Symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness and coughing that produces lots of mucus. They tend to show up when you’re:
a) over age 40
b) a teenager
3. COPD refers to which two conditions—separately or together—that make it difficult to breathe?
a) lung cancer and pneumonia
b) influenza and allergies
c) chronic bronchitis and emphysema
4. The number of deaths attributed to COPD is:
c) consistent from year to year
5. If you’re diagnosed with COPD, your condition typically:
a) gets worse over time
b) goes away over time
c) is contagious
6. The number of Americans affected by COPD is higher than the number of:
a) Americans who watched Super Bowl XLV
b) Americans who own cats
c) students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities last year
7. People with COPD should:
a) walk for exercise
b) exercise vigorously
c) avoid exercise
8. A meal with potential benefits for people with COPD might include:
a) lasagna with low-fat cheese
b) salmon, broccoli and mushrooms
c) porterhouse steak, potatoes and creamed spinach
9. If you have COPD, your doctor might recommend that you:
a) wear loose-fitting clothing
b) get a flu shot
1. B. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD. If you smoke, quit. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. Exposure to other types of lung irritants, such as chemicals, air pollution, second-hand smoke, exhaust fumes and even smoke from a wood fire also can contribute to developing the disease.
2. A. In most cases, COPD symptoms appear first around age 40. The most common symptoms are a cough that won’t go away and shortness of breath—minor nuisances that you might chalk up to being out of shape, coming down with a cold or plain old aging. If they persist, ask your doctor to conduct a spirometry test for COPD. It’s painless, quick and effective for detecting the disease, even in its early stages.
3. C. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are the conditions generally associated with COPD. Chronic bronchitis causes swelling and/or obstruction in the airways connected to the lungs; emphysema causes damage to the lungs themselves. Most people with COPD have symptoms of both diseases; many suffer from asthma as well.
4. B. The latest figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, based on records from 2008, show that COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer.
5. A. First the bad news: There is no cure for COPD—yet. And symptoms become more severe over time. Now the good news: Medical knowledge of COPD is increasing, as researchers explore the causes of and potential treatment for the condition. One thing they have confirmed: COPD is not contagious.
6. C. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute estimates that 12 million adults have been diagnosed with COPD and another 12 million are undiagnosed or developing COPD. That’s an estimated 24 million, versus about 19.5 million college students in the United States in 2010, and nowhere near the 111 million Americans who watched this year’s Super Bowl or the 38.2 million U.S. households that own cats.
7. A. Moderate physical activity, such as walking around the neighborhood, gardening or light housework, is recommended for COPD patients, as long as your doctor agrees. When you’re busy, your lungs are busy, and that helps maintain their strength and slow progression of the disease. Think of ways to increase your step count during the day—from pacing while you’re on the phone to wearing a pedometer to challenge yourself each day. Every little bit helps.
8. B. There are only a handful of dietary links to lung health, but vitamin D is one of them. If you don’t have enough, your lung function can suffer. Salmon and other fatty fish such as mackerel and tuna are sources of Vitamin D. So are mushrooms that have been exposed to real or simulated sunlight during the growing process. Broccoli, and related vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale and wasabi, contain a compound called sulforaphane that helps fight respiratory inflammation associated with COPD.
9. C. Anything that constricts your breathing is a negative when you have COPD. Wearing loose-fitting clothing makes it easier for your lungs and diaphragm to do their jobs. Flu shots often are recommended because people with COPD tend to experience severe, longer-lasting flu symptoms. Your doctor may recommend a vaccination against pneumonia for the same reason.