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Affinity Health Explores How COPD Affects Your Brain

What is COPD?

COPD is an umbrella term for long-term lung illnesses that make breathing difficult and is one of the world’s leading causes of illness and mortality. It is believed that about 380 million people are suffering from COPD worldwide, many of whom don’t get the proper treatment and support to manage this common condition.


Signs and Symptoms Of COPD

Patients with COPD typically have chronic bronchitis and emphysema symptoms, but the classic triad also includes asthma or a combination of the above.

Common signs of COPD may include:

  • Shortness of breath, especially when you’re physically active
  • Wheezing or squeaking when you breathe
  • Tightness in your chest
  • Frequent colds or flu
  • Blue fingernails
  • Swollen ankles, feet, or legs
  • Low energy
  • Unexplainable weight loss


People with COPD find it more challenging to carry out their typical daily activities as the disease develops. Due to the loss of productivity at work and at home and the costs of medical treatment, there may be a significant financial burden.


People with COPD may require further treatment at home or admission to the hospital for emergency care if their symptoms worsen during flare-ups. Severe flare-ups can be fatal. Heart diseaseosteoporosismusculoskeletal diseaseslung cancer, depression, and anxiety are all common in people who have COPD.


What Causes COPD? 

Long-term exposure to substances that irritate your lungs is the most common cause of COPD. This includes cigarettes and varieties of tobacco smoke (including second-hand smoke), dust, air pollution, or certain chemicals. Your genes may also put you at a greater risk for COPD, although COPD is not generally a hereditary condition.


What Does Untreated COPD Do To Your Brain?

Over the years, researchers have been examining how COPD affects brain health. Various studies show regionally decreased grey matter volume in the anterior, mid, and posterior cingulate cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala of those with COPD, affecting thinking and memory.


Because COPD reduces the amount of air your lungs take in, it can make your blood low in oxygen over time. Low levels of oxygen to the brain may cause neural damage. This could increase your risk for memory, concentration, and attention problems,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.


Hewlett says that while one prominent feature of COPD is lung inflammation that can cause difficulty breathing, COPD is also associated with inflammation of the entire body.


“People with COPD have elevated levels of several body chemicals related to inflammation. And the same body chemicals have been linked to thinking and memory problems.”


Living With COPD

Although there’s no cure for COPD, there are things you can do to stay healthy and ease your symptoms. If you think you – or a loved one – may have COPD, talk with your doctor, who may be able to suggest lifestyle measures that can help keep your brain sharp. In addition, oxygen therapy may help preserve memory in people with COPD.

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading provider of health insurance, offering you a range of options at affordable rates including access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance that meets your needs, your budget, and your lifestyle. Our range of healthcare products are designed to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service at all times. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

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