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 of the people with it remain undiagnosed. It is called COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and it is the third leading cause of death in the United States. COPD is a serious lung disease that over time makes it hard to breathe.
This November, during National COPD Awareness Month, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the American Lung Association in West Virginia are asking you to take the first steps to fight this disease by learning more about COPD. All too often the signs of COPD are ignored. Symptoms such as frequent shortness of breath, chronic cough, wheezing, and excessive phlegm come on slowly and worsen over time.
These symptoms are often mistaken as a normal sign of aging or being out of shape and delay diagnosis by a health care provider. If left untreated, people with COPD gradually lose their stamina and their ability to perform daily activities. The good news is that with early diagnosis and treatment, people with COPD can improve their symptoms and get back to the things they love doing.
If you are a current or former smoker, have had long-term exposure to things that can irritate the lungs, or have certain genetic conditions, you could be at risk for COPD. If you are experiencing symptoms, talk to your health care provider and ask for a simple breathing test called spirometry.
To find out more about COPD, visit COPD, Learn More Breathe Better, an awareness campaign of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Institutes of Health, at COPD.nhlbi.nih.gov. Take the first step to breathing better this November. Learn more about COPD.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Christine Compton is program specialist for the American Lung Association in West Virginia.