You know of heart attacks, but have you heard of a lung attack?

If not, it might surprise you to learn that lung attacks are part of why a health condition called COPD is the third-leading cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

COPD, which stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a lung disease that causes difficulty breathing. Lung attacks, also known as flare ups or exacerbations, can be mild, but moderate to severe attacks are extremely dangerous and often require emergency medical intervention.

During a severe lung attack, symptoms like shortness of breath and extra coughing suddenly intensify, airway muscles tighten significantly and air supply is cut off. This can lead to blue lips or fingers, confusion, drowsiness, extreme shortness of breath and, when not treated, death. In fact, in the first ten days after a lung attack, the risk of heart attack doubles and the risk of stroke increases 40 per cent.

“Even if an exacerbation is mild, one of the most crucial steps to take during the recovery period is to report the incident and current symptoms to your health-care provider so they can re-evaluate your treatment plan,” says Peter Glazier, executive vice president of the Lung Health Foundation.

“Unfortunately, about 40 per cent of exacerbations are not reported, and patients experiencing symptoms like persistent coughing and phlegm are at greater risk of having another lung attack within a year.”

It just takes one moderate lung attack to increase the risk of hospitalization, so if even something seems like it “wasn’t as bad as it could have been,” it should never go unreported.

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