Researchers Propose Deeply Exploring "Loss of Breath" Symptom

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Emphasizing the benefits to healthcare at large, an article published in the European Respiratory Journal pressed for more attention be given to breathlessness-specifically in middle-aged patients.

Emphasizing the benefits to healthcare at large, an article published in the European Respiratory Journal pressed for more attention be given to breathlessness—specifically in middle-aged patients.

Researchers, who described the symptom as a “source of suffering”, claimed prioritizing the treatment of this symptom would promote physical activity, prevent comorbidities and benefit the environment.

The investigators asserted identifying breathlessness would also allow for a quick diagnosis for conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), where deploying comprehensive smoking cessation support, flu vaccines, pulmonary rehabilitation and other treatment methods before the point of hospitalization is financially beneficial.

Using data from the Burden of Obstructive Lung Disease (BOLD) project, the authors cited that the study could only account for 13% variation in dyspnea, or breathing difficulties, among the participants. Furthermore, lung function and other clinical barometers could only explain a 32% variance in COPD patients’ Medical Research Council scores.

“Lung health screening in primary care confirms that breathlessness is common and associated both with reduced self-reported physical activity and reduced quadriceps strength, indicating the presence of deconditioning in healthy individuals as well as those with abnormal spirometry,” the writers penned.

The researchers claimed this approach would especially benefit COPD patients, as many of them “have comorbidities, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and anxiety, all of which may, to an extent, [can] be prevented or reversed by the promotion of physical activity in breathless individuals who have, or may otherwise go on to develop, long-term conditions.”

Moreover, they mentioned that an increase in physical activity was associated with better health outcomes. Ironically, they claimed when patients simply chose walking or cycling over driving as a method of transportation, it both stopped the degradation of lung function and reduced carbon monoxide emissions— a gas which is dangerous to inhale.

“Attention to breathlessness in midlife has the potential to significantly improve the identification of early disease and prevent the development of health problems, and would promote the sustainability at a social, financial and environmental level that is needed to improve patient care today and enable systems to deliver high-quality healthcare tomorrow,” the investigators urged.

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