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Lung Disease: Clearing the Air About Asthma and COPD

Most people take breathing for granted. After all, you don’t have to plan it or think about it. You just do it. In fact, during the course of a normal day, you breathe in and out 25,000 times. But for the millions of people across the U.S. who are living with lung disease, a single breath of air is precious.

Lung disease comes in many forms. In some types, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD or emphysema), the airways are narrowed, creating problems with air flow. In other types, such as pulmonary fibrosis, pneumonia and lung cancer, the lungs become more rigid and can’t expand as well as they normally do. This lowers the amount of air the lungs are able to hold.

These diseases have different origins. Asthma, for example, which affects about 26 million Americans, often runs in families. The most powerful risk factors for asthma are genetics, plus exposure to smoke and air pollution.

With COPD, which affects about 15.7 million Americans, long-term exposure to lung irritants is usually the cause. Cigarette smoking is a primary danger, but you’re also at risk of COPD if you breathe in secondhand smoke, air pollution, chemical fumes, or dust from the environment.

Many lung diseases can be prevented. Once they’re diagnosed, not all of them have a cure. However, they can be managed with steps, such as quitting cigarette smoking or taking certain medications..

What Does Lung Disease Mean for Our Community Health?

Asthma affects millions of Americans. Almost 9 percent of adults in Kansas (more than 261,000 people) live with this condition — above the national average of less than 8 percent.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is another lung disease that has a serious impact on our community. More than 6 percent of adults in Kansas (more than 174,000 people) have COPD. Smoking is one of the major risk factors.

Lung disease can take a toll on mental health. For example, people with asthma and COPD have higher rates of depression and anxiety than people without these diseases.

Managing a chronic lung disease like asthma or COPD requires ongoing effort, but it also takes committed health care providers who are in touch with the needs of their community.

The Impact of Lung Disease on Our Community

  • Adult women are more prone to asthma than adult men in Kansas.
  • More than 174,700 adults in Kansas have asthma.
  • More than 141,700 adults in Kansas have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

What Are the Keys to Addressing Lung Disease Community-Wide?

Knowing the causes of lung disease is the first step toward lowering everyone’s risk. While certain factors — such as a family history of asthma — are not preventable, others — such as smoking, air pollution, and obesity — are manageable with the right tools.

Stormont Vail Health has many ongoing programs and resources to help our community prevent and manage these chronic health conditions, including:

Having the right health care team also can help you lower your risk of developing lung disease — or manage it if you have already been diagnosed.

Your primary care physician can assess your risk and address those factors that are increasing your risk. Physicians and other care team members can also educate your family members on ways to support your efforts.

If you have been diagnosed with a lung disease, one or many different specialists and other medical staff may be a part of your health care team. For example, at Stormont Vail Health, COPD patients might work with care managers and social workers to manage risks, discuss health care goals, get non-medical support and more.

A Closer Look: Life with Lung Disease

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Next Steps for Patients

  • To stay on top of your lung disease management, book your next primary care visit by calling (785) 270-4440. You can also use MyChart to make an appointment.
  • Learn more about pulmonary care services at Stormont Vail Health.

Next Steps for Referring Providers

  • If you are a Stormont Vail provider, make a referral online through EPIC.
  • If you are not a Stormont Vail provider, call (785) 270-4000 or (800) 468-0177 to refer your patient.