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Health > Under the RainbowFall 2008 IS Magazine

COPD – A leading cause of illness and death.

Do you need to be tested for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease?

By Lucy Jokiel

How’s your breathing compared to six or 12 months ago? Can you exercise and function the way you have in the past? Have you cut back on or avoided any activities because of breathlessness? Answers to those questions could indicate that you need to be tested for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes symptoms such as shortness of breath, chronic coughing or wheezing, and congestion or clogging of your airways with mucus. Although smokers and former smokers are at highest risk, as many as 15 percent of COPD cases occur in people who have never smoked.

The American College of Physicians recommends spirometry (lung testing in which you blow into a tube) for people with symptoms. The test takes only a few minutes and can be ordered by your doctor. Those scoring below a certain level are usually given medicines to open their airway or treat inflammation. Oxygen is recommended for those with low blood oxygen while resting. Pulmonary rehabilitation programs are essential for those with symptoms and poor spirometry readings.

The Hawaii COPD Coalition is conducting Project SUCCESS (Spirometry-Urged Cessation through Counseling, Education and Sustained Support), which will offer free monthly lung testing, education and referrals as well as COPD and smoking cessation support groups. Testing is recommended especially for current and former smokers and those with respiratory symptoms. Testing locations, times and dates are posted on the website.

Since smoking cessation is the single best treatment for COPD, counseling, information and referrals about quitting are an important part of the project. Another excellent resource is HMSA’s Ready, Set, Quit! program – call (808) 952-4400 on O‘ahu or 1 (888) 225-4122 on the Neighbor Islands to learn more.

For more information on COPD, visit their website, email them at, or contact project director Valerie Chang at (808) 699-9839 on O‘ahu.

Island Scene Online is not intended to replace the advice of health care professionals. Please consult your physician for your personal needs and before making any changes in your lifestyle.
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