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Breathing Space Newsletter – Fall 2017


Protect your breathing – it’s Lung Month

Imagine struggling to do something 22,000 times a day. That is the reality for the one in five Canadians who have lung disease. This November, in honour of Lung Month, The Lung Association wants everyone to think about their breathing — something many of us take for granted.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest threats to your breathing and how you can avoid or minimize them.

Indoor Air Quality

Make the air you breathe as healthy as possible. Watch out for:

  • Gas appliances releasing dangerous gases and particles
  • Damp areas like the bathroom where mould can grow
  • Household cleaning products that contain toxic chemicals
Smoking

It’s the leading cause of preventable death in Canada. If you smoke, here are some tips to help you quit:

  • Take a deep breathing break instead of a cigarette break
  • Change your habits to make smoking difficult
  • Brush your teeth often
Lung Disease

Check how healthy your lungs really are by taking our quick Lung Health Check, and find other ways to protect your breathing.

Does the freeze make you wheeze?

Winter asthma tips

Cold winter air can irritate anyone’s lungs. But, if you have a lung condition such as asthma, the winter air may affect you even more. Read more

November 15th is World COPD Day

What the COPD?

Have you ever heard of it? It stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It affects the breathing of more than 900,000 Ontarians. Read more

Your Dollars, Your Impact

Exercising your lungs

We recently awarded Lisa Wickerson, BScPT, MSc, PhD (candidate) and Sunita Mathur, BScPT, MSc, PhD with funding to conduct a study on high intensity interval exercise versus moderate intensity continuous exercise in individuals with advanced interstitial lung disease. Read more

Radon Awareness Month

Test your home

More people die from radon gas in this country than from car accidents. And yet, 96 per cent of us still don’t test for it. Every home in Ontario should be tested for radon, no matter where it is located. Read more

Flu Facts

5 facts you need to know

Although flu infections can occur at any time throughout the year, the risk increases in the fall and peaks in the winter. Read more

News and Events

Browse The Lung Association – Ontario’s upcoming news and events. Read more

Pneumonia

5 things you should know

Pneumonia is the swelling of one or both lungs and is usually caused by an infection. These 5 facts may surprise you. Read more


Does the freeze make you wheeze?

Winter asthma tips

Cold winter air can irritate anyone’s lungs. But, if you have a lung condition such as asthma, the winter air may affect you even more. Cold air can cause the airways in your lungs to tighten up, making it more difficult to breathe.

Keeping your asthma under control can help to reduce your risks and help you stay active this winter. Exercise has many benefits for your lungs, your general health and for your mood.

Stay active this winter

Tips to help you stay active in cold air:

  • Wear a scarf or cold-weather mask around your mouth and nose – this can help to warm up the air you breathe in
  • Some people may need to use their “reliever” inhaler (usually a blue inhaler) before going out in the cold air
  • Warm up before your activity – start off slowly then work your way up to a more intense level
  • Cool down after your activity – slowly decrease the intensity of your exercise

Do not start any physical activity if you have symptoms. If you have problems breathing or develop other asthma symptoms during exercise, stop and take your reliever inhaler. If possible go inside to a warm place. Only start your activity again if your symptoms are gone.

If you find it hard to be active in cold air, see your healthcare provider to ensure your asthma is under good control. You can also find indoor physical activity programs and sports in your community. The goal is to be active most days of the week.

Keep your asthma under control

Take these steps to help keep your asthma under control:

  • Take your asthma medications as prescribed. If you have any questions about your treatment plan, see your healthcare provider.
  • Learn how to use your inhalers properly. You can find videos on how to use inhalers at lungontario.ca/inhalervideos. Have your inhaler technique checked whenever you visit your healthcare provider.
  • Identify and avoid your asthma triggers
  • Follow the written asthma action plan from your healthcare provider to help guide you in managing your asthma. If you don’t have an asthma action plan, ask for one.

Don’t let the cold air stop you from being active this winter season. For more tips to keep your breathing under control, call the Lung Health Information Line at 1-888-344-LUNG (5864) or email info@lungontario.ca.

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November 15th is World COPD Day

What the COPD?

COPD. Have you ever heard of it? It stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It affects the breathing of more than 900,000 Ontarians. According to the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement, it is the number one reason for hospitalizations in Canada of all chronic diseases. It also accounts for the largest number of return visits to emergency departments and generates the highest volume of hospital readmissions.

It is a disease where people have difficulty breathing because their airways have become “obstructed” or blocked.  For people living with COPD, flare-ups or exacerbations (worsening of symptoms) can be brought on by a cold or flu, or something as simple as a change in the weather or poor air quality.

In honour of World COPD Day on November 15, 2017, we want to bring awareness to this lung disease that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Most people don’t know what COPD is, what its symptoms are or what a spirometry test is. Many people don’t find out they have COPD until the illness is well advanced.

A simple test that can save a life

Spirometry, a simple breathing test, is crucial in diagnosing COPD. This is a simple breathing test that takes just a few minutes and measures how much air that can be blown out of the lungs and how fast it can be expelled. Early detection of COPD can sometimes motivate people to quit smoking (the main cause of COPD) sooner, which can reduce disease progression.  Early diagnosis and intervention can lead to:

  • better outcomes
  • lower mortality
  • reduced use of the healthcare system;
  • improved quality of life for patients and their families.

Did you know it is recommended that all current and former smokers, 40 years of age or older, who show respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath, should take a spirometry test?  Take the Canadian Lung Health Test:

If you are 40 years of age or older and answer “yes” to one or more of the following questions, you might want to see your healthcare provider for a discussion about your symptoms and ask to be sent for a spirometry test:

  1. Are you now or have you in the past been a regular smoker or exposed to second hand smoke?
  2. Do you cough regularly with or without mucus (phlegm)?
  3. Do you get short of breath doing simple tasks?
  4. Do you get colds more often that last a lot longer than others you know?
  5. Do you wheeze when you exert yourself or at night?

With early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, patients with COPD should expect to experience less shortness of breath, better exercise tolerance, fewer hospitalizations and improved quality of life. Many people who have learned to manage their COPD live satisfying and relatively active lives. You can too. Click here to explore our COPD management tips.

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Your Dollars, Your Impact

Exercising your lungs

The Lung Association works hard to help fund critical lung health research. We recently awarded Lisa Wickerson, BScPT, MSc, PhD (candidate) and Sunita Mathur, BScPT, MSc, PhD with funding to conduct a study on high intensity interval exercise versus moderate intensity continuous exercise in individuals with advanced interstitial lung disease like pneumonia or idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

Exercise is a key component of pulmonary rehabilitation for people with interstitial lung disease.  Individuals with advanced interstitial lung disease can experience significant shortness of breath and low levels of oxygen on exertion. This can limit their ability to exercise and consequently the benefits that come from it.  However, modifying exercise may allow individuals to continue exercising, which can ultimately improve their health.

This study will compare moderate intensity continuous exercise versus high intensity interval exercise to determine the best exercise training strategies and modifications for people with interstitial lung disease.

This is crucial because ensuring people with interstitial lung disease can continue to exercise can lead to improvements in functional ability like walking, endurance and strength. It can also advance rehabilitation outcomes through improved exercise capacity and health-related quality of life.

Click here to learn more about the research we fund that helps people breathe.

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Radon Awareness Month

Test your home

More people die from radon gas in this country than from car accidents. And yet, 96 per cent of us still don’t test for it. Caused by the breakdown of uranium in the soil, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. Seeping into the house through drains, cracks and crevices in the foundation, this radioactive gas escapes detection because it is both colourless and odourless.

Testing your home for radon

Every home in Ontario should be tested for radon, no matter where it is located. It’s easy:

  • You can purchase a do-it-yourself test kit from The Lung Association or home improvement retailers (look for long-term kits that allow for at least a three month testing period)
  • Hire a certified radon professional.
  • To find out more details about testing, visit takeactiononradon.ca/test

Radon levels in your home can change significantly over time. They can rise and fall from one day to the next. Radon concentrations are usually higher in the winter than in summer. For this reason, measurements taken during the winter and over a longer period of time are more accurate.

What if my radon levels are high?

The Canadian guideline for indoor radon is 200 becquerels/m3. Action should be taken to reduce the radon level if it reports back higher than 200 Bq/m3. To find a certified radon professional visit takeactiononradon.ca.

How radon can affect your health

As radon breaks down, it forms radioactive particles that can get lodged in your lung tissue as you breathe. The radon particles then release energy that can damage your lung cells. When lung cells are damaged, they have the potential to result in cancer. Not everyone exposed to radon will develop lung cancer, and the time between exposure and the onset of the disease can take many years.

Click here to protect your breathing from radon.

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Flu Facts

5 facts you need to know

Influenza, also known as the flu, is a very contagious infection caused by viruses which can cause a mild to severe infection in your nose, sinuses, throat and lungs. For those with any pre-existing lung conditions, like COPD or asthma, you are at a higher risk of serious complications from the flu, such as pneumonia.

Although flu infections can occur at any time throughout the year, the risk increases in the fall and peaks in the winter. With flu season upon us, the question of whether to get vaccinated or not is one many people are trying to answer. Here, we clear up some myths to help you make an informed decision.

  1. Even if you had the flu shot last year, you need it again this year. The viruses that cause the infection can change slightly each year, so the vaccine must also change to match them. A person’s immune protection from vaccination also declines over time.
  2. There’s more than one flu shot available. There are different vaccination options. Those 65 and older should speak with their healthcare provider to find out which vaccine is right for them, as this age group typically doesn’t respond to vaccines as well as younger adults.
  3. Getting the flu shot will not give you the flu. The vaccine you receive has an inactivated virus and therefore cannot give you the flu. If you develop influenza within two weeks of getting your shot, it is likely that you already had the virus prior to vaccination. It can also be a result of your body’s immune response to a foreign substance. However, the most common reactions to the vaccine itself are less severe than symptoms of the actual flu.
  4. You need the shot even if you’re healthy. If you’re 65 or older, your immune system is weakening naturally, making you more susceptible to the virus. If you’re younger than 65, getting the shot will help protect more vulnerable populations (pregnant women, babies and young children, and those with chronic illnesses) from contracting the flu from you.
  5. The flu shot is 40 to 60 per cent effective in preventing the flu in healthy adults. Although some people who get the vaccination may still get sick, the flu tends to be milder than if they didn’t, which reduces the risk of serious complications.

Learn more about how vaccination can protect your breathing at lungontario.ca/vaccines.

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News and Events

World Pneumonia Day  |  November 12, 2017

Raising awareness, promoting interventions and generating action to prevent and treat pneumonia. Did you know that two shots are better than one to best protect yourself from pneumococcal pneumonia?

World COPD Day  |  November 15, 2017

Raising awareness about and supporting those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Festival of Trees  |  November 16 to 19, 2017  (Sault Ste. Marie)

Kick off the holiday season with inspiration at our annual Festival of Trees! This fun family friendly event includes specially decorated trees and wreaths that can be taken home by lucky winners in support of The Lung Association. More details coming soon.

Giving Tuesday  |  November 28, 2017

Move over, Black Friday! #GivingTuesday is a social media movement to create an international day of giving at the start of the holiday season. Each Tuesday in November, our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter communities will come alive with stories and videos celebrating the ways that your support makes a difference. You can support Give to Breathe, our #GivingTuesday initiative, here.

Better Breathing 2018  |  January 25-27, 2018 (Toronto)

The Lung Association’s Better Breathing Conference brings together health-care professionals from many disciplines all focused on the respiratory health of the people of Ontario. Plenary topics and speakers include:

  • Transplant Innovations, Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, Surgeon-in-Chief, University Health Network; Director, Toronto Lung Transplant Program, Toronto General Hospital and The Hospital for Sick Children; Professor of Thoracic Surgery, University of Toronto
  • CRISPR Technology, Dr. Ron Cohn, Chief of Paediatrics, The Hospital for Sick Children; Chair of Paediatrics, University of Toronto.

To register or learn more, visit betterbreathing.ca

Breathe! Gala  |  January 25, 2018 (Toronto)

Join us for The Lung Association’s highly anticipated Breathe! Gala. It’s the night we all come together – health professionals, corporate and government partners, and those passionate about our cause – with one significant goal: to create breathing breakthroughs.

Purchase tickets here.

SteelTown Climb  |  February 3, 2018 (Hamilton)

Our Step Up & Breathe events are one of The Lung Association’s signature fundraising initiatives. Challenge yourself to climb Stelco Tower – all 26 storeys of it – while making a real difference in the lives of those affected by lung disease!

Register here.

Stratford Garden Festival  |  March 1 to 4, 2018 

Launch the spring season and support the Ontario Lung Association by attending the annual Stratford Garden Festival. Enjoy and learn from our special speakers and shop the market to get your garden ready.

Learn more here.

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Pneumonia

5 things you should know

Pneumonia is the swelling of one or both lungs and is usually caused by an infection.  But, there is more to know about this disease that people don’t often think about.

  1. There are multiple causes of pneumonia. There are more than 30 causes of pneumonia. Many different germs can cause pneumonia, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. The most common type of bacterial pneumonia is pneumococcal, which is caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae. When you breathe in these germs, they can settle in the alveoli (air sacs) in your lungs and cause an infection.
  1. Bacteria that cause pneumococcal pneumonia are probably already in your body. The bacteria that cause pneumococcal pneumonia may already live in your nose or throat. They are, however, kept out of your lungs by your immune system. But, if you are 65 or older, your immune system weakens, increasing your risk of contracting this disease.
  1. Two shots are better than one. There are two pneumonia vaccines. For the best protection against pneumococcal pneumonia, adults 65 and older should speak to their healthcare provider about getting both vaccines.
  1. Anyone can get it. While some people are at a higher risk of contracting pneumococcal pneumonia, anyone can get it. Those at a higher risk include:
  • People who smoke cigarettes
  • Those with a chronic medical condition like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Children younger than five years of age or seniors older than 65
  • Those with an impaired immune system
  1. It can be deadly. In Canada, there are more than 24,000 hospitalizations annually from pneumonia. It is one of the leading causes of hospitalizations and deaths in seniors. Pneumococcal pneumonia alone kills 1,500 Canadian adults each year. Complications from this disease include severe fever and difficulty breathing. Older adults may also experience confusion or low alertness. Seventy-two percent of adult patients who survive pneumonia will be re-hospitalized within three to five years.

Click here to learn more.

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