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VA Researching for You

Respiratory Health

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the average person takes between around 17,000 to 23,000 breaths a day. For the healthy, this is a simple process. But for millions of people with respiratory problems, breathing is not easy.

Two specific types of respiratory diseases that can restrict breathing are asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways characterized by episodes of breathing problems. While it cannot be cured, its symptoms can be controlled.

COPD is characterized by airflow limitation. The limitation is usually progressive and is associated with an abnormal inflammatory response of the lungs to noxious particles or gases, such as those in cigarette smoke.  Learn more.

VA’s Major Respiratory Health Accomplishments:

  • 1946: Developed and tested effective therapies for tuberculosis through multicenter clinical trials that led to the development of the VA Cooperative Studies Program
  • 1950: Concluded there is "strong circumstantial evidence" linking cigarette smoking with respiratory tract cancers
  • 2013: Found that sleep apnea and poor sleep quality predicted diabetes, independent of other diabetes risk factors or mental health status.
  • 2014: Learned that treatment for pneumonia that included the antibiotic azithromycin (Zithromax) was associated with a significantly lower risk of death and a slightly increased risk of heart attack
  • 2016: Developed a blood test to determine the causes of upper respiratory illness, to help ensure antibiotics are used appropriately

Below is a news story that illustrates VA’s commitment to advancing technology and research initiatives to benefit our nation’s Veterans.

Pharmacist Deborah Woo demonstrates the video-training technique used in the study. (Photo by Chris Pacheco)Pharmacist Deborah Woo demonstrates the video-training technique used in the study. (Photo by Chris Pacheco)

Telehealth inhaler training helps Vets with respiratory disease

Many people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a respiratory disease, use inhalers to deliver medications that are intended to open up their breathing passages.

Unlike oral medications, however, inhaler use is a skill that must be taught and reinforced. An inhaler device requires proper technique and positioning to deliver medication to the lungs. But 90 percent of COPD patients use their inhalers incorrectly, with errors in use leading to worsening symptoms and increased hospitalizations, according to researchers who carried out a VA-funded pilot study on inhaler training.   Read more..

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