3 Steps to Easier Breathing


Every year, about 1,000 San Diegans die from chronic lung diseases, the fourth leading cause of death in the county.

Chronic lower respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma are lung or respiratory illnesses that make it hard to breathe.

“Lung diseases can be prevented and treated,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “There are some steps people can take to protect themselves.”

Chronic lower respiratory disease deaths have seen a slight decrease in the past few years. A total of 1,042 San Diegans died from lower respiratory diseases and 3,050 were hospitalized in 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

In San Diego County, three behaviors—poor nutrition, lack of physical activity and tobacco and substance abuse—lead to four chronic diseases—cancer, heart disease and stroke, Type 2 diabetes and lung disease. Combined, these diseases cause more than 50 percent of deaths in the region. This 3-4-50 principle helps drive the County’s Live Well San Diego vision, which recently celebrated its fifth anniversary.

November is COPD Awareness Month which aims to raise awareness and increase treatment pulmonary diseases. 

What can you do prevent and treat lower respiratory disease?

Avoid smoke and other pollutants

  • If you are a smoker, stop. If you don’t smoke, don’t start.
  • Quitting smoking can help you live a longer and healthier life. The American Lung Association has many programs to help you quit for good.
  • Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke and make your home smoke-free.
  • Avoid chemicals, dust and fumes at home and work.

Visit your doctor regularly

  • Early detection is key since immediate treatment could stop disease progression. Treatment requires medical diagnosis and management of medications to alleviate symptoms.

Get recommended vaccines

  • Get a flu shot. Influenza can cause serious breathing problems, including COPD.
  • When people with COPD get the flu, it often turns into something more serious, like pneumonia.
  • Get the pneumococcal vaccine. It can help keep you from getting very ill with pneumonia. Your doctor can tell you whether you need one or two shots.
  • Get the pertussis or whooping cough vaccine. It can prevent COPD flare ups. Make sure you are current on pertussis vaccinations.



José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact