The Health Promotion Administration (HPA) on Friday promoted a “one-minute stair-climbing test” for people to assess their risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as part of activities to mark World COPD Day on Wednesday.
HPA Deputy Director-General Wu Chao-chun (吳昭軍) said that the condition is the third-most common cause of death worldwide, with about 3 million fatalities per year, according to WHO data.
In Taiwan, about 5,000 people die of the disease annually, he added.
COPD is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that leads to airflow obstruction, he said, adding that typical symptoms are shortness of breath and a chronic cough, often with mucus discharge, he said.
More than 90 percent of people with COPD are smokers, Wu said, urging people who want to quit smoking to call the HPA’s dedicated 0800-636-363 hotline.
People who are at risk of developing the disease should see a doctor for a health check and, if necessary, seek treatment as early as possible, he said.
Smoking, exposure to air pollution and dust in the workplace are risk factors, Taiwan Society of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine chairman Wang Hao-chien (王鶴健) said.
National Taiwan University Hospital Intensive Care Ward and Respiratory Care Center director Ku Shih-chi (古世基) said that he has been treating a 66-year-old person with COPD who has been smoking for more than 20 years, often up to two packets of cigarettes per day.
The man developed symptoms after retirement, and only sought treatment after his condition worsened over the course of more than a month, Ku said.
His symptoms became more pronounced when exercising or when the weather was changing, often leaving him out of breath, Ku said.
He was diagnosed with COPD, as well as allergies, Ku said, adding that his lung function slowly improved after he quit smoking, and received medication and pulmonary treatment.
A survey conducted by the society found that 41 percent of respondents did not know about COPD, and 46.4 percent were unaware that they should seek medical attention if they experience typical symptoms for more than three weeks, said Ku, who is the society’s public affairs group convener.
Wang, who is deputy superintendent of the hospital’s Cancer Center, encouraged people to try the “one-minute stair-climbing test” to assess their risk of COPD.
People who can only climb 30 to 50 steps within one minute might be at medium risk, while those who can only climb fewer than 30 steps might be at high risk, Wang said.
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