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Professional Spotlight, 04/02/13


COPD: Learn More. Breathe Better. A Conversation Can Be the First Step 

COPD logo
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is now the third leading cause of death in the United States. According to the latest Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data, an estimated 15 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD. Yet, many more may have COPD and remain undiagnosed.

Unfortunately, symptoms of COPD often go unreported until the disease is in its late stages. Part of the reason for this is that many common symptoms of COPD, such as chronic cough or shortness of breath, can be mistaken by patients as a normal sign of aging or being out of shape. While campaigns such as the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's (NHLBI’s) COPD Learn More Breathe Better® are working to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of COPD, an open line of communication in the exam room continues to be one of the most effective tools to catch and treat this serious lung disease early.

Family physicians and primary care providers play an important role in the diagnosis and management of COPD. Providers should look for COPD in patients who are over 40 and have:

• Persistent or progressive dyspnea (difficult or labored breathing)

• Chronic cough or sputum production

• Decline in level of activity

Pulmonary function testing is useful for determining the severity of COPD and distinguishing it from asthma. Providers should also be aware that, while COPD is more likely if there is a history of smoking, genetic factors (like alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency) and environmental or occupational exposures may also play a role. In fact, 10 to 20 percent of COPD cases may be due to environmental or occupational exposures.

While there is no cure for COPD, early diagnosis and treatment can help alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life. An increasing number of effective therapies are available for patients who have COPD, and an open conversation between patient and provider often can be the first step in helping patients breathe better.

Learn more about COPD diagnosis and treatment.

Learn about COPD Learn More Breathe Better.


Guest Contributor Dr. David C. Goff Offers Perspective on the Future of Epidemiology

Street sign that says 'Future'

We are pleased to welcome guest contributor, David C. Goff, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., chair of the American Heart Association (AHA) Council on Epidemiology and Prevention, and dean of the Colorado School of Public Health, who will help us mark the forum’s 1-year anniversary by sharing his perspective on the future of epidemiology:

Strong epidemiology has been a critical component of advances in public health over at least the past half-century and will remain important in the future. The potential contributions of strong epidemiology include further elucidation of the social determinants of health, the molecular determinants of health, and the comparative effectiveness of various interventions, whether based on changes in policies, systems, environments, behaviors, or the use of pharmacologic, biologic, or device-based therapies. 

See what else others are saying and join the conversation.


Pulseless Electrical Activity—Definition, Causes, Mechanisms, Management, and Research Priorities for the Next Decade

Pulseless electrical activity (PEA) is recognized as an increasingly significant public health burden, since a greater proportion of out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests and resulting deaths have been associated with PEA, compared with ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation. In general, sudden cardiac arrests are a leading cause of death in adults in the United States, resulting in an estimated 200,000 to 450,000 deaths each year, and accounting for 50 percent of all cardiovascular deaths.

The NHLBI convened a working group in Bethesda, MD, in July 2012 to discuss current knowledge and future directions for research in prediction, prevention, and management of PEA, as well as to explore probable causal pathways.

View a summary of the workshop.


UAB Researchers Discover Possible Treatment for Incurable Lung Disease

An NHLBI-supported research team at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) has discovered a new pathway that contributes to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, an often fatal lung disease with no cure and no effective treatments. More importantly, they have also found a new potential treatment to block this pathway that leads to fibrosis, or scarring of the lungs. 

Learn more about this NHLBI-funded study.

Learn more about treatments for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

® COPD Learn More Breathe Better is a trademark of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Please note that the photo on this page of the Future sign is not for public use.

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Last Updated April 2013