Know your number!
No, I’m not talking about your blood pressure number, or even your cholesterol number. I’m talking about your FEV1 number. For patients with asthma or COPD, it is important to have a spirometry (lung function test) so you can know your FEV1 lung function number.
FEV1 stands for Forced Expiratory Volume in 1 second. This is the amount of air that a person can blow out in one second. A person should be able to blow out at least 80% of their air in the first second. Persons with asthma or COPD that is not controlled may fall below 80% and not even know it or feel it. 71% of patients who think there asthma is controlled, it is NOT when compared to national asthma guidelines definition of control based on objective measures (lung function). If you can’t get your “number” above 80%, that’s a problem that needs investigation. FEV1 is just one value in the spirometry test performed in order to help identify asthma or COPD .
Who should have spirometry done?
- Shortness of breath (with or without exercise)
- Chronic cough
- Possible asthma
- Possible bronchitis
- Frequent colds
- Allergic rhinitis (hay fever)
- Exposure to environmental air pollution
- Persons using >2 canisters of Albuterol per year
- Smokers over age 40 years old with symptoms
Spirometry is a non-invasive lung function test performed in the doctor’s office. A person blows into a mouthpiece attached to a sensor that is attached to a computer. At least 3 good efforts are needed and there is a lot of deep breathing involved. Children as young as 5 years old can perform this test.
People with asthma who have a persistently low FEV1 are more likely to go on to have an asthma attack compared to those with normal FEV1:
- If FEV1 is 60-80%, the future of risk an asthma attack is 2.5 times higher than if FEV1 was normal.
- If FEV1 is <60%, the future risk is of having an asthma attack is 4.5 times higher than if FEV1 was normal.
You would not think of managing blood pressure medications without checking your blood pressure or randomly injecting insulin without knowing your blood sugar level for diabetes, why would you try to manage your asthma without knowing your lung function?
Seems like a simple question. Ask your doctor or go to an asthma specialist like an allergist to find out your number. At Family Allergy & Asthma Care of Montana you can have spirometry done for only $35.
This educational information does not take the place of your physician’s advice.