Breathe Easy Week is being celebrated between the 17th and 23rd of June this year. It is the British Lung Foundation’s (BLF) annual awareness week to promote the importance of lung health and inform people about the risks of lung disease.
Efficient lungs support a healthy body
Lungs are vital organs tasked with bringing oxygen into the body and expelling carbon dioxide. They serve to maintain air in the body at an appropriate temperature and level of humidity. Lungs can facilitate sneezing, coughing, filtering and swallowing, all of which help to rid the body of harmful substances that may enter by mistake. Lungs also support sense of smell.
Our lungs’ capacity to undertake these tasks naturally declines with age, but lifestyle can also play a part. It’s important to take care of your lungs by eating well, exercising regularly, reducing stress and not smoking.
Lung disease can be a killer
Lung disease covers a wide range of conditions from asthma through to lung cancer. It is responsible for over 700,000 hospital admissions each year and accounts for one fifth of UK deaths. Early diagnosis is an ongoing challenge that contributes to these statistics, particularly in the case of lung cancer. Lung disease can affect anyone, but it is often linked to lifestyle choices and is more prevalent among older members of the population.
The NHS is taking lung disease very seriously. NHS England has recently invested in a screening programme specifically for lung cancer. This programme is targeted at people aged between 55-74 years old who are at greater risk of developing the condition, such as smokers or ex-smokers. It is aimed at boosting early detection rates and is being rolled out in parts of the country with the highest death rates from lung cancer.
However, government initiatives such as lung cancer screening will not catch all cases of lung disease. There is an urgent need for people to self-assess and actively seek health advice if they believe they are at risk.
Get involved with Breathe Easy Week
This year’s Breathe Easy Week is focusing on breathlessness. Feeling short of breath from time to time is usually nothing to be concerned about. Even the fittest among us may feel a bit out of breath running for the bus. But when breathlessness becomes chronic, or is acute and comes on without warning, it can be a symptom of lung disease.
The BLF is encouraging people to take an online breathlessness test to assess their lung function in the hope that it will prompt those who are most at risk of lung disease to seek medical attention.
The breathlessness test uses questions derived from the Medical Research Council’s breathlessness scale. The questions ask about your daily activities and are focused on what feeling breathless can stop you doing. It collects basic demographic information – age, weight and height – to assess whether your level of breathlessness is a cause for concern. The questionnaire takes only a few minutes to complete and provides an instant assessment of the state of your lung health. It also provides advice based on your results, as well as suggestions for keeping your lungs healthy.
Breathlessness is not always due to a lung condition. Although the Breathe Easy Week is being championed by the BLF, the online tests will flag issues that could be due to other conditions, such as heart disease and anxiety, or simply indicate some lifestyle factors which need adjusting.
Breathlessness: how to get help
The breathlessness test is available all year round, not just during Breathe Easy Week. If you, or someone you know, suffers from breathlessness, take the online test.
If you suspect you have a lung condition, you should see your GP as soon as possible. For the latest health updates, or to learn more about preventative healthcare, read more from our blog.