Pulmonary function tests and many other free health screenings will be offered Oct. 23, at the Fall Into Health Community Health Fair at Yampa Valley Medical Center and its campus. Free information will be provided about a variety of health issues, including living wills, Alzheimer’s, autism, diabetes, food allergies, joint replacement, mental health and suicide prevention.
The health fair is from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. For more information, visit www.yvmc.org/healthfair.
Breathe in, breathe out. It’s something that a healthy person does about 12 to 18 times per minute each day. But most of us do not notice our breathing patterns unless we are exercising or suffering from a cold.
And that is exactly why many lung diseases go undiagnosed and untreated, said Bill Moore, respiratory therapist and director of Respiratory Care Services at Yampa Valley Medical Center.
“The human body is very adaptable,” he said. “When someone has a lung problem, the body will compensate by taking deeper breaths or increasing the number of breaths per minute.
“Because this happens slowly over a period of time, most people don’t even notice that their breathing has changed,” Moore said. “They could be in the early stages of lung disease, and they are not even aware of it.”
That’s the reason Moore is volunteering his time the morning of Oct. 23 to offer free pulmonary function tests at YVMC’s Fall Into Health Community Health Fair.
Moore and the Respiratory Care team have been providing these tests at health fairs for many years. The process is simple. After taking a deep breath, a person blows into a device called a spirometer, and the amount of exhaled breath is measured.
The measurement is then compared to “predicted values” that register what healthy people score on this test. This database also takes into account age, gender, height/weight and ethnicity.
When test results indicate a lung problem, Moore recommends that the individual see a physician. A more definitive pulmonary function test may be ordered.
“The most important thing is for a person to recognize that they have a lung problem, and the sooner the better,” Moore said. “As with almost every disease, catching it early is key to effective treatment.”
Moore explained that our lungs have two basic functions — to pull in air and then push it out, or expel it. This requires elasticity. Think of your lungs as balloons that inflate as we inhale and deflate as we exhale.
Most lung problems fall into either the obstructive or restrictive category, he said.
Our lungs are full of numerous little airways. An obstruction in the airways can be caused by an asthma attack or even a tumor. This will stop the flow of air through these airways.
Restrictive problems cause the lungs to become stiff. This makes them less elastic and therefore less inflatable, Moore said. Conditions that can cause pulmonary restriction include broken ribs, obesity and medical conditions such as pulmonary fibrosis or sarcoidosis.
“Undiagnosed asthma can be a big problem,” Moore said. “If this disease goes untreated, lung tissue actually remodels itself and becomes stiff and restricted. Treatment helps prevent that from happening.”
Asthma can develop during childhood or in adulthood. Moore said that children who get viral infections are at high risk for developing asthma. Allergies also can be a precursor to asthmatic conditions.
“From a public health perspective, there is a real value to educating the public on the signs and symptoms of lung disease,” Moore said. “Taking a free pulmonary function test at the health fair is an easy way to measure lung health.
“I want to raise the level of awareness about undiagnosed problems, because if we can treat the problem at an earlier stage, then we can stop the progression of lung deterioration.”
Christine McKelvie is public relations director at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.