Led by the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) and its membership of health care professional societies from around the world, the Year of the Lung campaign seeks to raise awareness that hundreds of millions of people around the world suffer each year from treatable and preventable respiratory diseases. As part of the Year of the Lung, COPD Learn More Breathe Better® partners, including the American College of Chest Physicians, COPD Foundation, the American Thoracic Society and others, will be conducting activities throughout 2010 to increase awareness and promote early diagnosis and treatment of COPD and other lung diseases.
To learn more about the Year of the Lung, visit www.yearofthelung.org. To register an event or to find out what the Breathe Better Network is doing in your area to recognize the Year of the Lung, check out the COPD Learn More Breathe Better Web site.
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A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), even when mild or asymptomatic, reduces the heart's ability to pump effectively. The study, which was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health, is the first time researchers have shown strong links between heart function and mild COPD.
Researchers have long known that severe cases of COPD have harmful effects on the heart, decreasing its ability to pump blood effectively. The new results suggest that these changes in the heart occur much earlier than previously believed — in mild cases and even before symptoms appear.
“This study shows that COPD, even in its mildest form, is associated with diminished heart function,” said NHLBI Acting Director Susan B. Shurin, M.D. “We now have evidence that the presence of even mild COPD may have important health implications beyond the lungs.”
Graham Barr, M.D., Dr. P.H., assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center, researcher and lead author of the study noted, “These results raise the intriguing possibility that treating lung disease may, in the future, improve heart function.” He continued, “Further research is needed to prove whether treating mild COPD will help the heart work better.”
Although damage to the airways from COPD is not fully reversible, treatments can substantially improve a patient's daily life. “Many people with COPD don't recognize common symptoms such as persistent cough or shortness of breath doing things they used to be able to do,” said James Kiley, Ph.D., director of NHLBI's Division of Lung Diseases. “Though COPD is the fourth leading causes of death in the United States, it remains unknown to many. That is why raising awareness of the signs of COPD and the importance of early diagnosis and treatment is so important.”
St. Mary's Hospital in rural Leonardtown, Maryland celebrated the opening of a new pulmonary and cardiac rehabilitation center last month, thanks to veteran news anchor Ted Koppel and his wife Grace Anne Dorney Koppel, a national patient advocate for the NHLBI's COPD Learn More Breathe Better® campaign. The new Grace Anne Dorney Pulmonary and Rehabilitation Center provides pulmonary and cardiac rehabilitative services designed to limit the effects of illness, prevent future recurrences or medical complications, and maximize the ability to participate in daily tasks. The COPD Learn More Breathe Better campaign has welcomed St. Mary's Hospital into its Breathe Better Network of partners.
“I got my life back as a result of pulmonary rehabilitation,” said Mrs. Koppel, who in 2001 was diagnosed with a very severe case of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and given only a few years to live. Instead of taking the prognosis as a death sentence, Grace Anne decided to learn how to live better with COPD. She began pulmonary rehabilitation and through hard work and dedication has improved her stamina and overall health.
Participants in the hospital's program will attend exercise and health education sessions three times a week for approximately 12 weeks in a group format. The classes at the center are designed to treat patients with lung diseases such as COPD, emphysema, asthma or chronic bronchitis, or who have had heart attacks or heart surgery. The focus is on rebuilding strength and endurance in order to safely resume life's demands, whether that is returning to work, or more basic activities such as dressing and bathing or walking to the mailbox.
“Data show that pulmonary rehabilitation improves exercise ability and quality of life for many with lung diseases like COPD. Having access to such a program means greater opportunity for keeping members of the community with lung diseases active and involved,” said James Kiley, Ph.D., director of NHLBI's Division of Lung Diseases.
A physician's order is required before beginning pulmonary or cardiac rehabilitation. For more information, contact the Grace Anne Dorney Pulmonary and Cardiac Rehabilitation Center's appointment line at (240) 434-7143.
DRIVE4COPD, a new multi-year public health initiative aimed at raising awareness of COPD, officially launched on Feb. 3 in New York City with NASCAR Nationwide Series™ driver Danica Patrick, Emmy-nominated actor Jim Belushi, Olympic Gold Medalist Bruce Jenner, Grammy Award-winning country music star Patty Loveless, and former Pro Football great Michael Strahan. The campaign, founded by Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (BI), will become the “Official Health Initiative” of NASCAR. The NHLBI's COPD Learn More Breathe Better® campaign will join BI's other partnering organizations, the American Lung Association and COPD Foundation.
The DRIVE4COPD Race Team (Patrick, Belushi, Jenner, Loveless and Strahan) kicked off the “Race for the Missing Millions”—a four-day, 14-city, 6,000 mile cross country trek—on Feb. 13 beginning with its first “Pit Stop,” the DRIVE4COPD 300 at the Daytona International Speedway, a day prior to the famed Daytona 500. Race “Pit Stops” feature a five-question screener to help identify those who may be at risk for COPD.
The COPD Learn More Breathe Better campaign applauds BI for taking action on such an important cause and is happy to be joining as a partner to help get this program off the ground.
Following the celebrity four-day kick off the race will continue with local COPD screening events at NASCAR races and major sporting events across the country. For more information or to find events near you, visit www.DRIVE4COPD.com.
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