Prior to 2020, the Lung Health Foundation operated as the Ontario Lung Association. Enjoy this content from our archives.
Moving the Dial on Diagnosis & Treatment of Asthma
Asthma is life long, but it doesn’t have to be life limiting. Unfortunately too many Canadians are falling through gaps in the health care system. We’re facing obstacles from the moment we’re diagnosed – and these gaps can continue to swallow us as we navigate treatment. The bottom line is that too many of us are living with asthma that’s poorly managed.
The Lung Association is pleased to announce the results of Moving the Dial, a national project aimed at learning more about the challenges that exist in properly diagnosing and treating people with asthma. These results will help us shape an environment that will support better patient care and provide a strong base for our advocacy efforts with government. We’re ready to start moving the dial. Are you in?
We conducted an online survey of 1,510 Canadians with Asthma. The full white paper is now available. Here are the top five obstacles that The Lung Association is confronting through our work to make Ontario a safer place to breathe:
36% OF PEOPLE WITH ASTHMA STILL REGULARLY EXPERIENCE SYMPTOMS LIKE DIFFICULTY BREATHING.
Shortness of breath, chest tightness, coughing and wheezing. Sound familiar? It’s something that more than a third of asthma patients are confronting every day. And 56% of us are reaching for our reliever inhalers 3+ times per week. Why aren’t we demanding more out of life?
…AND YET 20% OF US ARE STILL FUMING.
Smoking cigarettes, that is. And 25% of us are living in a home with someone who lights up. Our survey found that the combination of asthma + smoking contributes to far worse outcomes and a higher chance of having or developing an another lung disease in addition to asthma. People who smoke are twice as likely to indicate that they’re missing school, work, or other activities due to their symptoms. It’s affecting our day-to-day lives, and it’s even affecting the treatments we qualify for: Smokers are also less likely to be considered candidates for treatment using cutting-edge biologics.
ALMOST 30% OF US ARE MISSING OUT ON LIFE EXPERIENCES.
Uncontrolled asthma is very likely to interfere with exercising. Our bodies crave movement, but can our lungs deliver if they’re held back by asthma symptoms?
ONLY 22% OF US HAVE A PLAN IN PLACE.
The Asthma Action Plan, that is. Just 44% even know what an AAP is. Even more alarming is the fact that 47% of asthma patients are not taking their medications as prescribed. The most popular reason why we’re slacking on meds? We simply forget.
AND YET 92% THINK WE’VE GOT THINGS UNDER CONTROL.
Perhaps the biggest gap we’re trying to overcome is a knowledge gap that extends beyond the health care system. Do we even remember what it feels like to have our asthma under control? Do we recall what it’s like to move freely without being wary of wheezing and at high alert for shortness of breath? With properly controlled asthma, a near-symptomless life is within reach for the majority of us (60%) who list our asthma as mild.
While many of us commonly think of the flu during this time of year, pneumonia, a chest infection usually caused by bacteria, should not be ignored, as it is one of the leading causes of illness in Canadians seniors.
How can I prevent pneumonia?
- If you smoke, try to quit—smoke damages the natural defenses in your lungs (e.g., cilia) that protect you from infections
- There are two pneumococcal vaccines available in Canada – ask your healthcare provider about which one(s) are recommended for you
- Get the flu vaccination each year—since pneumonia can be a complication of getting the flu, the flu vaccine helps reduce the risk of both the flu and pneumonia
- Wash your hands regularly—when soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
- Stay away from people who are sick
- If you have an underlying condition that increases your risk of pneumonia (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis), make sure it’s kept under control
- If you are at a higher risk from pneumonia and you get a cough, fever or shortness of breath, see your health-care provider right away.
- Regular exercise, adequate sleep and a healthy diet can strengthen your immune system.
How do I know if I have pneumonia?
Since symptoms can vary depending on your age, see your healthcare provider if you notice any health-related changes. Although in some people (e.g., very young, very old) sometimes there are no obvious symptoms of pneumonia, these are the most common:
- Yellow-green phlegm (mucus)
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling very tired and unwell
- Chest pain
Ready to quit smoking? We can help.
If quitting smoking is one of your New Year’s resolutions, The Lung Association has the tools, tips and supports that can help you on your journey. Making the decision to quit smoking is perhaps the most difficult step in the process.
You are taking a big step towards a healthier life!
Benefits of quitting
- Your health improves within 20 minutes of quitting smoking, as your heart rate and blood pressure drop.
- After eight hours: Your body’s carbon monoxide (a toxic gas) level drops and the oxygen level in your blood increases back to a normal level. Carbon monoxide in your blood causes shortness of breath and increased heart rate.
- After 48 hours: Your chances of having a heart attack start to decrease. Your senses of smell and taste begin to improve. The airways in your lungs relax allowing you to get more air into them to breathe easier.
- After two to three months: Your blood circulation improves and your lung functioning increases by up to 30 per cent.
- After one year: Your added risk of a smoking-related heart attack is cut in half.
- After 10 years: Your risk of dying from lung cancer is cut in half.
- After 15 years: Your risk of heart disease drops back down to that of someone who doesn’t smoke. Your risk of dying from a heart attack is the same as a person who has never smoked.
- Change your habits to make smoking difficult, impossible, or unnecessary. Try activities such as swimming, jogging, tennis, or handball. Wash your hands or dishes when the desire for a cigarette is intense.
- Throw away all cigarettes, lighters and matches. Hide (or throw out) ashtrays.
- Change your eating habits to aid in cutting down. For example, drink milk, which is frequently considered incompatible with smoking. End meals or snacks with something that won’t lead to a cigarette.
HOW TO QUIT
Whether you’re ready to quit now or quit later, The Lung Association has free resources to help including access to certified respiratory educators (CREs) who provide smoking cessation counselling. They are available through our Lung Health Information Line at 1-888-344-LUNG (5864), through email at email@example.com or live chat on lungontario.ca.
Arm Yourself with the Flu Shot
Influenza, also known as the flu, is a very contagious infection that can be serious. It causes about 3,500 deaths in Canada each year. The flu season starts in late fall and continues until spring.
Get the flu shot as soon as it becomes available since it takes two weeks for it to boost your immunity. The flu shot is recommended for most people aged six months or older.
If you have a chronic condition such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, you have a higher risk of complications from the flu such as pneumonia.
Even if you had the flu shot last year, you should get it again this year. The viruses that cause the infection change each year, so the vaccine must also change to match them. Your immune protection from the vaccine also declines over time.
In individuals aged 65 and older, the immune system response to the flu shot is not as strong as it is in younger people. Those aged 65 and older may get more benefit from the high-dose flu shot, which has four times the usual dose.
Getting the flu shot also helps reduce the risk that you will spread the flu to others in your family and community who may be at a higher risk of serious complications. The flu shot reduces the number of flu-related hospitalizations, doctor visits and deaths.
Reduce your risks with these flu prevention tips:
- Get the flu shot – it gives you the best protection from the flu
- If you are pregnant, getting the flu shot can reduce the risk that your baby will get the flu after it is born
- Wash your hands regularly
- Clean common areas of your home regularly (e.g., faucets, remote controls, computer keyboards)
- Avoid crowded places and people who have a cold or the flu
- Sneeze into your sleeve if you don’t have a tissue. If you use a tissue, throw it away immediately after use and wash your hands.
- Stay home from work or school if you have a cold or the flu
Click here to learn more about how vaccinations can protect your breathing.
If you have any questions, call The Lung Association Lung Health Information Line at 1-888-344-LUNG (5864) and speak with a certified respiratory educator, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit lungontario.ca.
Helping the Missing Million Improving the Diagnosis and Treatment of COPD
The Lung Association is embarking on a national project aimed at learning more about the challenges that exist in properly diagnosing and treating people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the results of which will help us shape an environment that will support better patient care, and improved diagnosis and treatment.
An estimated 1.6 million Canadians live with COPD, yet it is believed almost as many have COPD and don’t know it. It is now the third leading cause of death in Canada and the number one cause of hospitalization. This is a disease that places a tremendous burden on patients, caregivers and the healthcare system.
With this in mind, The Lung Association wants to gain insight into the barriers that are preventing people from being diagnosed, and once diagnosed, discover what the challenges are in getting them the best treatment possible.
The first phase of this project – market research to better understand gaps in diagnosis and treatment from a patient and physician perspective – is now complete. We have found that:
- Among those who have experienced at least one symptom of COPD, 35% did not speak to their doctor about it.
- Before being diagnosed, 65% of patients were experiencing symptoms for at least one year.
- Prior to being diagnosed, 56% of patients did not know what COPD was.
We will use these findings to help us inform the white paper and policy recommendations that will be published in the spring. Stay up-to-date on the results of this project, as they are released.
We are pleased to partner with Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd. on this program.
YOUR DOLLARS, YOUR IMPACT: How doing two things at once can affect people with COPD
Dr. Darlene Reid has continued her career in pulmonary rehab, specifically working at muscle performance in people with a chronic respiratory disease because she has seen that with the right exercise prescription, patients can greatly improve. This improvement has a tremendous impact on their day-to-day life. Simple daily activities like doing groceries can be severely compromised for anyone living with a respiratory condition, but Dr. Reid knows this can change and she wants to be part of creating that change.
It has been known for a long time that people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have cognitive impairment because the nerve cells in the brain are very sensitive to low oxygen levels in the blood. This research project focuses on how that brain injury may hamper movement and is examining how people do two things at once when one of the activities is a physical day-to-day activity – walking.
A patient is asked to walk (across a mat with 14,000 sensors) at both a casual and quick speed. The physical activity of walking is then paired with a thinking activity – spelling a five letter word backwards. By combining these two activities, the study is able to compare how well someone walks when they are just walking quickly versus how well they walk when they are thinking about something. During these activities, we are also able to measure neural activities of the brain just beneath the forehead to determine how much brain activity is required to walk and spell at the same time.
This study is really important in terms of how to improve people’s physical activity when they have COPD. Physical activity has been shown to be the best predictor of all-cause mortality in people with COPD. That means if someone is physically fit and they have COPD, they’re going to live longer. This knowledge will help Dr. Reid’s team improve the manner in which they treat people and improve their physical fitness level.
Once it is determined that someone with COPD has more difficulty doing two things at once interventions are then available to improve their ability to do two things at once. There are balance activities and different thinking activities while people are walking to improve the manner in which the brain is integrating those activities.
Bring Home a Breath of Spring from February 25th to March 8th
For the past 20 years, The Lung Association has been running Breath of Spring (formerly Tulip Campaign) with resounding success thanks to the incredible efforts of volunteers across the province. This year we are excited to continue selling tulips, our signature flower, which is low fragrance and non-allergenic – and crispy wave ferns, which have been shown to remove harmful particles from the air. Both are perfect gifts for family and friends, or a bright addition to your desk – and a fresh way to support the work of The Lung Association!
Get involved by ordering your tulips or crispy wave ferns today or volunteering as a Workplace Champion.
The money raised through the campaign will:
- Fund research that could lead to the next breathing breakthrough ﬁnding cures to diseases that will deliver a future of better breathing for all.
- Give people with lung disease and their families vital information, support and resources.
- Promote healthy breathing by ﬁghting for policies that protect our air, and educating Canadians about what they can do to promote their own lung health.
“The Lung Association’s Breath of Spring raises funds for vital research projects, services and programs for people living with lung disease. One such program is the Pulmonary Exercise Maintenance Program in Ottawa, which I attend twice a week. These programs are extremely important to anyone with a lung disease. Through the program I have learned how to live with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). I can show my support to The Lung Association being a volunteer driver and it’s a bonus that the tulips are low- fragrance and my favorite flower.”
– Irene, Ottawa Region
News & Events
Today, one in five Canadians have lung disease, but all of us need to breathe. That’s the driving force behind all of our special events and local campaigns. Get involved today by raising funds and awareness in your community. Choose from a variety of events that appeal to your interests and physical abilities. We know you’ll find one (or more) to enjoy, along with friends, family and co-workers.