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 charities include the Alpha-1 Foundation Ireland, the Asthma Society of Ireland, COPD Support Ireland, Cystic Fibrosis Ireland, the Irish Institute of Clinical Measurement Physiologists, the Irish Lung Fibrosis Association, the Irish Sleep Society, and the Irish Thoracic Society.
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.1
- 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.1
- Lung cancer – this is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in Ireland1, with over 2,700 people diagnosed with the disease each year2. 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.1
Other lung diseases which are rarer, but more common in Ireland than in other countries due to genetic and other factors, include:
- 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.
- Sleep apnoea – where the lungs’ airways are obstructed, this is currently estimated to affect 10 per cent of the Irish population with prevalence on the rise due to ageing and obesity.
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 3.
“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 following Top Five Steps to “Love Your Lungs” championed by the European Lung Foundation:
We also know it’s an addiction and a tough nut to crack. That’s why there are a range of supports and resources out there to help you and to double your chances of success. 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
But you can do something about it. You can make your house a smoking-free zone and keep your home 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. Why not car-share for the daily commute or school-run, or consider walking, cycling or using public transport if possible? You can check out daily pollution levels in your locality at AirQuality.ie
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.
Nobody is expecting you to run a marathon, and 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!
World Lung Day is co-ordinated by the Forum of International Respiratory Societies and the European Lung Foundation. For more information on the work of the Irish Lung Health Alliance or to download the “Top Five Steps to Love Your Lungs” factsheet, visit www.lunghealth.ie. Follow on social media using hashtag #WorldLungDay