Are you constantly coughing and spluttering but never visit your GP because ‘it’s just a cough’?
You’re not alone, as a recent report has revealed that Brits have their heads in the sand when it comes to lung disease – despite it being the world’s biggest killer.
The worrying statistics, released by the Forum of international Respiratory Societies (FIRS), reveal that people are far more worried about other diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and stokes, than developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - aka lung disease.
However, while cancer deaths have decreased over the last decade, cases of COPD have doubled during the same period.
It’s estimated that nearly 4m people die of lung disease every year.
According to the study, 60% of Brits have never had their lungs tested and 80% believe that people with lung disease only show severe symptoms like constant breathlessness and whooping coughs.
The majority of Brits are unaware that subtle warning signs can signal early symptoms of lung disease – just like with heart attacks.
As a result, 50% of COPD sufferers go undiagnosed for years.
Scroll down to discover early warning signs of COPD ...
And it’s not only ignorance about the condition itself that is worrying health experts, but also a lack of understanding about how to manage the condition.
Only 27% of people with COPD know how to treat the condition and the majority believe that exercise is off the cards. However, in reality, physical activity can help improve symptoms of lung disease, even in the most severe cases.
In a statement, Klaus Rabe, from the European Respiratory Society (ERS), said: “Respiratory physicians understand more and more about the importance of exercise but our research confirms ignorance is still out there.
"Even gentle walking for those with severe disease can help in improving lung capacity and general wellbeing,”
“Chronic lung disease is a major health issue but its burden continues to be underestimated. There is widespread ignorance not only around the seriousness of lung disease but about what can be done to prevent it,” Rabe said in a statement.
Monica Fletcher from the European Lung Foundation adds: “Early diagnosis for lung conditions can lead to more effective interventions which, in turn can help alleviate symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.”
How To Breathe Easier:
Stop smoking Breathing in cigarette smoke irritates the airways causing coughing, shortness of breath and a range of lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer. Asthma is more difficult to control in people who smoke. Stopping smoking can prevent COPD getting worse, improve asthma control and reduce the risk of lung cancer.
Exercise as often as you can to improve your overall fitness and well-being. For example, a brisk walk for 30 minutes a day can reduce the feeling of breathlessness and relieve the symptoms of early stage lung disease.
Being overweight makes breathing more difficult, and being underweight is associated with more severe lung disease. Healthy eating should be part of your daily routine. It is recommended that you eat three to four meals a day including lots of fruit and vegetables.
Catching flu or other lung infections can be more dangerous for people with breathing problems. If you are experiencing breathing difficulties, it is advisable to have a . u vaccine every year and a pneumonia vaccineif you are over 65.
Take a Spiromentry test
Spirometry tests are an accurate way of telling how well you can breathe and can detect symptoms of many important lung diseases early on, giving you time to make necessary lifestyle changes.
Worried about lung disease? Take a look at these early warning signs you might be ignoring...
Trouble Inhaling & Exhaling
If you experience regular pain when breathing in or out and a tightened feeling around the chest area, seek advice from your GP.
Whether you're a smoker or not, if you've had a cough (or find yourself wheezing regularly) for a few months or years, speak to your GP.
If you have a constant feeling of breathlessness and feel out of breathe after doing simple physical tasks like walking up or down stairs or light exercise, this could be a cause for concern. Seek medical advice for reassurance.
Coughing Up Phlegm
Everyone gets a cold from time to time, but if you cough up large amounts of mucus and phlegm on a regular basis (and have no signs of a fever or cold), visit your GP.
Feel Like You Can't Breathe
If you ever feel like your lungs can't breathe in enough air to make you feel like you can breathe normally, seek professional advice.
Visit Your GP If...
... You begin to cough up blood, lose significant amount of weight or develop any of the above symptoms that begin to hinder your everyday life. Visit <a href="http://www.nhs.uk/Pages/HomePage.aspx" target="_hplink"><strong>NHS Choices</strong></a> for more advice.