DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I'm in my late 40s and was told I have COPD. Will I die? Is it like cancer? I have smoked for 30 years. I can't seem to stop. I cough real bad at night. Will you tell me more about COPD? -- N.N.
ANSWER: You and I will die. We all do. But you are relatively young, and you don't have to die from COPD, even though it's fourth on the list of causes of death. You must, however, stop smoking. That is the most important facet of treatment, and it's your way to a longer life. If you need help, talk with your doctor. The nicotine patch, gum, nasal spray or nasal inhaler can lessen your cigarette cravings.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease consists of two illnesses: emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Most people with COPD have both illnesses, and most are or were cigarette smokers.
Emphysema is the destruction of air sacs, those delicate structures through which oxygen passes from the lungs into the blood. Emphysema's primary symptom is breathlessness when exerting, and the exertion doesn't have to be all that. Chronic bronchitis is airway (bronchi) inflammation that narrows the air passages and increases the production of thick mucus. Its primary symptom is coughing that brings up thick sputum.
Neither illness can be undone. The progression of both can be halted by stopping the irritation of lungs from cigarette smoke.
Medicine can soothe airways, decrease mucus production and boost oxygen passage into the blood. Many of those medicines come as inhalers. If need be, oxygen makes life livable when breathlessness makes simple tasks impossible. You're not at that stage, but you'll reach it if you don't get a handle on your habit.
The booklet on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease discusses the causes of and treatments for emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue -- No. 601W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6.75 Can. with the recipient's printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am raising my two granddaughters, ages 14 and 16. At my age, it's a bit taxing, but they love me and I love them. The only thing we disagree about is milk. They won't drink any. They say they find it "gross." I wonder if they're getting enough calcium. What would you say to them? -- W.F.
ANSWER: I'd say, "Girls, drink your milk like your grandmother tells you."
If they are not eating or drinking any dairy products, they are not likely meeting their calcium requirements. An adequate daily calcium intake for girls their age is 1,300 mg. Dairy products are the best sources of calcium. Will they eat cheese or yogurt? That would help matters.
What do they mean by "gross"? Does milk give them gas and diarrhea? If it does, they might have lactose intolerance. Lactose is milk sugar. To digest it, people must have in their intestine an enzyme called lactase. If they don't have enough of it, dairy products make them miserable. That can be remedied by taking the lactase enzyme with dairy products or using products already treated with the enzyme.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.
© 2008 North America Synd., Inc. All Rights Reserved