6 Things to Know If You're Short Of Breath

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"Since COPD was thought to be a man's disease, there's still a gender prejudice that exists," says Dr. Thomashow. "There's research that suggests if you take a middle-aged man and a middle-aged woman with identical symptoms-former smoker with shortness of breath, cough and no history of asthma-the man is more likely to be diagnosed with COPD." If you have trouble walking up the stairs, are shorter of breath than your peers, and have a persistent cough or mucus, ask your doctor for a spirometry test to measure your lung function.

The asthma-COPD connection

ore people now suffer from asthma, and that may lead to COPD later in life. "Asthma is not just a restriction of muscles in the airway, but also an inflammatory disease," says Dr. Edelman. If left untreated, it forms scar tissue in the lungs. "When this narrowing of the airways becomes irreversible, it may lead to COPD."

A healthy lifestyle helps

"Our lungs are assaulted with toxins every second we breathe, so it's important to live healthfully," says Dr. Edelman. "Eat leafy greens and other colorful fruits and vegetables daily because they're full of antioxidants to protect lungs." Fit in at least 30 minutes of cardio workouts, such as walking, as often as you can. "Exercise helps keep your heart pumping efficiently, so it takes less oxygen to, say, climb one flight of stairs and lessens the burden on your lungs."

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More from Prevention:

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