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26 Sept 2022

Kilkenny woman and coalition of Irish lung health charities urges public to 'Love Your Lungs'

Top five steps to 'Love Your Lungs' factsheet launched in advance of World Lung Day on September 25

'Love Your Lungs'

Ann Marie Curran, Dr Stanley Miller, Orla Wynne and Kilkenny woman, Ann Marie O’Connell launch 'Love Your Lungs'

Members of the public are being urged to take five steps to protect their lung health into the future – by getting vaccinated against the ‘flu, pneumonia and COVID-19, by quitting smoking, by limiting exposure to air pollution, by eating a balanced diet and by being physically active.

The campaign is an initiative of the Irish Lung Health Alliance, a coalition of charities working to promote healthy lungs which includes the Alpha-1 Foundation Ireland, the Asthma Society of Ireland, COPD Support Ireland, Cystic Fibrosis Ireland, the Irish Cancer Society, the Irish Lung Fibrosis Association and the Irish Thoracic Society.


Ahead of World Lung Day on Sunday September 25, the Irish Lung Health Alliance, a coalition of charities working to promote healthy lungs, has urged members of the public to take five steps to “Love Your Lungs”.


The call comes with latest statistics from the Department of Health’s National Healthcare Quality Reporting System (annual report 2020) showing alarming figures when it comes to the top three lung diseases in Ireland:


Asthma – Ireland has one of the highest rates of asthma prevalence in the world, with approximately 450,000 people with doctor-diagnosed asthma, of whom approximately 240,000 are estimated to have uncontrolled asthma. Evidence suggests that the prevalence of asthma within the population is rising.

COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – also known as bronchitis or emphysema, it is estimated that 380,000 people are living with COPD in Ireland, yet only 110,000 are diagnosed. Sadly, at least 1,500 people die of COPD each year.


Lung cancer – this is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in Ireland, with over 2,700 people diagnosed with the disease each year. Incidence rates of lung cancer in our most deprived areas are more than twice as high as those in our least deprived areas, reflecting the strong association with smoking.


Other lung diseases which have a significant impact on the health and well-being of people in Ireland include:


Obstructive sleep apnoea – where the upper airways are obstructed during sleep, this is currently estimated to affect 600,000 people in Ireland with prevalence on the rise due to ageing and obesity.


Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (or Alpha-1) – a genetic condition that can cause lung, liver, and skin disease, and which often leads to COPD, is estimated to affect 250,000 people on the island of Ireland.


Cystic fibrosis – Ireland has the highest incidence of cystic fibrosis per capita in the world among its indigenous population and some of the most severe forms of the disease.


Lung fibrosis – with 400 people diagnosed with this condition each year, it can affect both smokers and non-smokers, and is known to develop in family members.


Dr Marcus Butler, Consultant Respiratory Physician and member of the Irish Lung Health Alliance, comments:

“Two and a half years since the start of the pandemic, the importance of World Lung Day and its key theme of Love Your Lungs has perhaps never been more pertinent. We know from latest figures from the Central Statistics Office that of the 33,055 people who sadly passed away in 2021, almost a quarter of these died as a result of a lung-related illness, including the respiratory disease, COVID-19.


“Our message is simple. Please take the five steps set out by the European Lung Foundation which will give you a head start on protecting your lung health long into the future. Whether it’s getting your vaccines, quitting smoking, limiting your exposure to air pollution, eating a balanced diet or being physically active – remember you are not alone. There are lots of reputable evidence-based information sources and helpful supports to assist you on your journey to better lung health.”

 

Top Five Steps to “Love Your Lungs”


The Irish Lung Health Alliance is encouraging people to adopt the Top Five Steps to “Love Your Lungs” championed by the European Lung Foundation:


Get the Jab. There is a range of vaccines available to protect against lung diseases, which protect you and others by preventing them from spreading:


The Flu Jab. This helps protect against the influenza virus which can be particularly dangerous for young children, the elderly, and those with existing health conditions. Remember “Flu Before Boo” and make sure to get your vaccine before Halloween.


The Pneumonia Jab. This is a severe lung infection and those under two years of age, over 65 years, or those with pre-existing lung disease are most at risk. Vaccination against pneumococcus, the most common cause of pneumonia, is the best way to stay protected.


The Whooping Cough Jab. This is a highly contagious respiratory disease which is particularly harmful for young children. The vaccine is normally given in the first year of life, with a follow-up booster between 5-10 years of age.


The COVID-19 Jab. It hasn’t gone away, unfortunately. COVID-19 can still put older people and those with pre-existing conditions at risk of severe illness, so make sure to get your booster dose as these are rolled out for different groups of people. Latest information is at HSE.ie

Quit the Smokes. We know smoking is bad for us. Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, over 250 of which are known to be toxic. It continues to be the main cause of a myriad of lung conditions, including COPD and childhood asthma, and diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Unfortunately, it’s the case that one in two smokers will die of a tobacco-related disease.

 


Addiction is a tough nut to crack but there’s a range of supports and resources to help. Set yourself a quit date and check in with your local smoking cessation clinic or call the HSE Quit team on Freephone 1800 201 203 and make a quit plan. Check out QUIT.ie

Breathe Easy. The air quality in our environment also impacts our lung health. It can be indoors with pollutants such as smoking, fumes from cooking, heating or cleaning materials, and allergens from pets, plants, dust or dampness. Equally, it can be outdoors from the burning of fuels from our home heating boilers, passing traffic or local industry.

Make your house a smoking-free zone and keep it well-ventilated, airing it for 5-10 minutes a few times a day, particularly when cooking, and after taking a shower or using cleaning agents. Car-share for the daily commute or school-run, or consider walking, cycling or using public transport if possible. Check out daily pollution levels in your locality at AirQuality.ie

Diet plays a role in the development and progress of lung diseases, and being either underweight or obese can have harmful consequences for lung health. Research suggests that Vitamins A, D and E, along with zinc, can protect against the development of asthma, while for COPD, foods with antioxidants, such as blueberries, red cabbage, spinach and beetroot, can be beneficial. In general, a diet of fruit, vegetables, fish, low salt and reduced trans-fats and omega-6 fatty acids, will give you a big advantage over the chances of developing lung disease.


Regular physical activity improves quality of life and fitness, and reduces the risk of chronic conditions. There is always a level of exercise or activity that is suitable for everyone. Talk to your GP, nurse or physiotherapist about what is appropriate for you. Consider including stretching exercises to improve flexibility and lifting weights to improve your muscle strength. Buddy up and grab a friend or join a group. There’s strength – and motivation – in numbers!


For more information on the “Top Five Steps to Love Your Lungs”, visit www.lunghealth.ie

 

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