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Take a deep breath, and prioritize your lung health

Did you know women are at a higher risk for certain lung diseases? The number of U.S. women diagnosed with lung disease is rising, but you can take steps toward prevention.   

Memorial Health System pulmonologists, Dr. Summer Allen and Dr. Jay Segarra, are here to share some common signs and symptoms, as well as ways to improve your lung health.

What type of lung-related issues are more common in women than men? 

Dr. Allen: Women tend to suffer from bronchiectasis, asthma, pulmonary hypertension and lung cancer in nonsmokers more than men.

Dr. Segarra: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is becoming more common in women than men for two reasons: First, women have a more difficult time quitting smoking than men, which is beginning to alter the demographics on COPD. Secondly, women are more susceptible to small airways disease than men, which explains the higher incidence of chronic bronchitis and asthmatic bronchitis in women.


What are the signs and symptoms of these issues? 

Dr. Allen: Coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, low oxygen and passing out all are signs and symptoms of lung diseases.


What can women do to improve their lung health? 

Dr. Segarra: The biggest thing women can do for their lung health, by far bigger than anything else, is to quit smoking. If you are not a smoker, never become one. If you are a smoker or have been a lifelong smoker who has quit relatively recently, talk to your doctor about lung cancer screening by low-dose chest CT scanning (LDCT). Some other tips include avoiding prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke, exercising regularly, remembering that cigars, vaping and cannabis smoking are also harmful to the lungs, avoiding triggers that may precipitate an attack if you have asthma or COPD and trying to maintain a healthy weight. 


What do you wish women knew more about their lung health? 

Dr. Allen: Take time to see a doctor for a chronic cough or other symptoms. Also, know your family history and if there is lung disease in your family.

Dr. Segarra: What I wish women knew about themselves, and their lungs, is that they are likely to live 80-plus years, but they are born with only one set of lungs. Cherish them!


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