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In November, Take the First Step to Breathing Better — Learn More About COPD
You may have heard the term COPD before — either in a radio or television commercial or may have heard someone talk about it. COPD, short for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a serious lung disease that over time makes it hard to breathe. If it remains untreated, COPD can have debilitating effects on everyday activities. Unfortunately, symptoms are often shrugged off as a normal part of getting older or a consequence of being out of shape. This November, during National COPD Awareness Month, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and [insert your organization] are asking you to take the first steps to fight this lung disease by learning more about COPD.
Also known as emphysema or chronic bronchitis, COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States. It affects one in five adults in the U.S. over the age of 45 and an estimated 24 million Americans, yet as many as half remain undiagnosed. In people who have COPD, the airway tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs are partially blocked, making it hard to breathe. The disease develops slowly and usually worsens over time. A chronic cough, hacking, wheezing and shortness of breath during daily tasks can be the first signs of COPD. All too often these early symptoms go ignored.
COPD occurs most often in people age 40 and over with a history of smoking (both current and former smokers). However, as many as one out of six people with COPD have never smoked. Other risk factors include long-term exposure to second hand smoke, certain chemicals, and dust or fumes in the workplace. In some people, COPD can be caused by a genetic condition known as alpha-1 antitrypsin, or AAT, deficiency.
"While there is no cure for COPD — early diagnosis and treatment can help people with COPD improve their symptoms and get back to the things they love doing," said James P. Kiley, PhD. Director, Division of Lung Diseases, at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. "This year's National COPD Awareness Month, we urge you to take the first step to breathing better. Learn more about COPD and schedule an appointment to talk with your doctor or health care provider about your lungs."
COPD can usually be diagnosed by a doctor or health care provider during a regular office visit with a simple, non-invasive breathing test called spirometry. If you or a loved one experiences any of the symptoms of COPD, take some time to learn more about COPD. With proper diagnosis and treatment, people with COPD can live longer and improve their quality of life.
You can find out more about COPD by visiting COPD.nhlbi.nih.gov. This website is part of the COPD Learn More Breathe Better® awareness campaign from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.