TMC Joins Statewide Effort to Increase Awareness of Lung Health

With lung disease now the third leading cause of death in Arizona, Tucson Medical Center is initiating a hospital-wide effort to increase awareness of strategies to prevent breathing problems and maintain lung health.

TMC recently joined a statewide collaborative to address Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, designed to promote lung health and disease prevention, while assisting those who already have the disease to live as healthy as possible, for as long as possible.

“Being able to breathe well contributes to our mental and physical well-being, our outlook and how we feel in general,” said Brenda Carle, a chronic disease coordinator who sits on the new coalition. “Anything we can to do to help our lung health and to better take care of ourselves will pay off by preventing complications and helping us feel better.”

There is no cure for COPD, which is one of the most common lung diseases and makes it difficult to breathe.

As part of the effort, TMC is working to enhance discharge action plans to help patients take active steps in reducing their chances of readmission.

Under a grant from the TMC Foundation, for example, patients identified as high risk will be given colorful magnets providing information on helpful resources, including a toll-free resource allowing callers to speak to a registered nurse or a respiratory therapist about lung health questions. The service, at 1-800-586-4872, is available seven days a week, with translation services available in 200 languages.

Carle said most smokers may eventually end up with COPD. “If you smoke, the No. 1 thing you can do for your health is to stop smoking,” she said. “We recognize how hard that can be, but there are tools out there to help empower patients make that change.” The Arizona Smoker’s Helpline (1-800-55-66-222), for example, not only offers phone and web-based services to help people quit tobacco use, but can also provide medication assistance, such as nicotine patches and gum.

Non-smokers, too, can be affected by the disease. In Southern Arizona, Carle said, where residents are exposed to smoke from annual fires, pollen and dust, masks can be worn to reduce irritation.

Exercise is another tool, she said. “Exercise helps us breathe deeper and strengthens our chest muscles to stay strong. So while people with COPD feel short of breath, they should actually try to exercise because it can help them feel less short of breath in the long run.”

Healthy eating is also important, she said. Processed foods typically have a high sodium content, which can lead to fluid retention in the lungs. “You want to eat a diet as natural and simple as possible. If it’s made by God, it’s good for you,” she said.

Medication, oxygen therapy and respiratory rehabilitation are all other potential treatment options to be explored with a primary care physician.

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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