General COPD Talking Points

These talking points are meant to be a conversation starter and can be used in external engagement efforts, including with members of the media, PSA directors at your local broadcast station, local health facilities, or the public in general.

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), also known as emphysema or chronic bronchitis, is a serious lung disease that over time makes it hard to breathe.
  • COPD is a leading cause of death in the United States and is also a leading cause of disability. While more than 16 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD, it is estimated that millions more have the disease without knowing. Source: CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).
  • According to the BRFSS, an annual survey conducted by the CDC, almost two-thirds of people diagnosed with COPD (63.8%) report that the disease has negatively impacted their life. Source: CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).
  • Part of the reason for this disparity in diagnosis is that the symptoms of COPD, such as shortness of breath, chronic coughing, and wheezing, come on slowly and worsen over time. Many mistake these symptoms as a part of aging or a consequence of being out of shape and, as a result, will delay seeking a diagnosis. At the same time, health care providers state that one of the biggest barriers to diagnosing COPD earlier is that patients do not fully report their symptoms – signaling a communication gap in the exam room. Source: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/all-publications-and-resources/copd-tracking-perceptions-individuals-affected-and
  • Two of the biggest reasons people who have experienced symptoms consistent with COPD say they have not talked with their health care provider is that they just “didn’t think of it” or they “have had these problems for years.” Source: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/all-publications-and-resources/copd-tracking-perceptions-individuals-affected-and
  • CDC data reports that COPD is almost twice as common in rural areas of the United States than in urban areas. Source: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6824a1.
  • Risk factors include a history of smoking (both current and former smokers), long-term environmental exposure to things that can irritate your lungs, as well as certain genetic conditions, such as alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency.
  • Seventy-five percent of COPD cases are directly associated with cigarette smoking. Source: 10.1378/chest.13-0809
  • Exposure to lung irritants — such as dust and chemicals in the workplace or other fumes — and exposure to secondhand smoke or air pollutants may contribute to COPD.
  • When left untreated, people with COPD gradually lose their stamina and their ability to perform daily activities.
  • The good news is that with proper diagnosis, COPD can be treated. And, it can be diagnosed by a health care provider during a regular office visit with a simple breathing test called spirometry.
  • While there is no cure for COPD, with early diagnosis and treatment, people with COPD can alleviate their symptoms and begin to get back to the things they love doing.
  • The first step is initiating that conversation in the exam room. By learning more about COPD, recognizing the symptoms, and talking with a health care provider, people with COPD can take the first step to breathing better.
  • For more information about COPD, visit [INSERT ORGANIZATION LINK] or the Learn More Breathe Better program at nhlbi.nih.gov/breathebetter