Section coordinated by Dr. María José Peiró, specialist in Family Medicine, with more than 10 years of experience in public and private areas. Master in nutrition and dietetics.PAL- Luis Palomino

Obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a condition in which the lungs, due to the inhalation of a toxic substance (in the most common cases of tobacco smoke) suffer an obstructive airway that makes it difficult to breathe.

Cough and expectoration are some of the first symptoms. Afterwards, shortness of breath appears and, in more advanced stages, problems arise such as difficulty concentrating, fatigue and chest tightness.

According to the EPISCAN II study, 11.8% of Spaniards suffer from COPD. Although the majority of patients are men, every day there are many women with this respiratory disease whose incidence among those over 40 years of age rises to 70%, affecting 9% of the female population.

Gender differences

More smokers than ever before

80% of patients who suffer from COPD are smokers or have been and the fact that this disease is increasing in female face is due to the fact that smoking is growing among them. In Spain, 24.7% of adult women are smokers. Among girls aged 13 to 15 this percentage reaches 25% and exceeds that of male smokers in the same age group.

Sensitive airways

In addition to this is that women are more vulnerable to tobacco than men and can develop severe episodes of COPD at an earlier age despite having less exposure to this substance. Women’s airways are different from men’s and for them every cigarette is more harmful.

Shortness of breath when walking, having a cough or a constant cold are warning signs.

Another way to smoke

Women tend to inhale more deeply and hold the smoke in their lungs longer, which is more harmful.

Increased exposure to smoke

15% of people with COPD have never smoked and 80% of this group are women. In other words, women are more exposed to air contaminated with tobacco and other smoke.

Diagnostic problems

Among them there is a greater number of affected people who suffer from COPD and do not know it, so they are not under medical control. This is explained because this disease is usually less associated with the female population and because it can manifest itself differently in women than in men, making it difficult to diagnose.

For example, they have more wheezing (the sounds made during breathing) and, on the other hand, less coughing and coughing.

The importance of early detection

COPD does not have a cure, but it helps to slow down its progression and improve the quality of life of the person diagnosed as soon as possible.

By spirometry

To achieve this, this quick and painless test is important and it is better to perform it on people over 35 years old who smoke. It involves filling the lungs with air and then releasing it as quickly as possible. Calculate the amount of air in the lungs and the rate at which it is expelled.

Know the warning signs

The feeling of suffocation when walking or climbing the stairs, feeling tired, having a cough, seeing that a cold lasts longer than usual or expectorating are reasons to suspect this disease, especially if the man smokes.

How to deal with COPD

With adequate treatment, the symptoms that accompany COPD can be reduced and thus improve the quality of life.

Quit smoking

This is the first step to take to prevent further damage to the lung tissue. Vaping is also harmful.


Depending on the patient’s needs, the doctor will prescribe inhalers, corticosteroids or antibiotics, which can improve the efficiency of the lungs.

Balanced diet

A large percentage of patients with COPD have problems with malnutrition, because they have difficulty eating. It is advisable to eat more meals every day and in small quantities, as well as to follow a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, proteins and healthy fats.


Drinking at least 2 liters of water a day and doing infusions can also help eliminate mucus.

5 steps to keep your lungs in shape

It is important to encourage quitting the tobacco habit.

10% of people over 40 years of age face COPD, a chronic respiratory disease that, in many cases, can be prevented.

1. Follow a tobacco cessation program

There are effective smoking cessation methods such as nicotine replacement therapy and treatments such as bupropion and varenicline. If you smoke, consult your family doctor.

2. Avoid polluted air

In addition to tobacco smoke, toxic dusts and chemical vapors that irritate the lungs must be prevented from entering the lungs. On days with heavy pollution, avoid streets with heavy traffic and efforts such as cycling. Use a protective mask such as FFP2 to prevent harmful particles from entering the respiratory tract.

3. Walk away

This is a simple aerobic exercise that strengthens the lungs and helps maintain good lung capacity.


4. Practice breathing exercises

Place your hands on your stomach and breathe in through your nose to fill your lungs and expand your belly. Hold your breath for two seconds and slowly breathe out through your mouth, gently squeezing your stomach area to increase breathing. Repeat six times. You can also slowly inhale air through your nose and exhale it while keeping your lips closed as if you are blowing out a candle. Try to make the inhalation last twice as long as the exhalation.

5. Stretching

Stretching the muscles improves body posture, which optimizes lung function. You can, for example, inhale and, as you exhale, raise your arms above your head, keeping your hands together. When you inhale, lower it and raise it again as you exhale. Repeat 10 times.

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