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Learn More, Breathe Better Early Intervention Key to Preventing and Managing COPD


Information from The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)

Only a few years ago, about one-third of the population had not heard of
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) despite its status as one
of the leading causes of death in the United States. Now, nearly a
decade later, awareness of COPD is on the rise.

Because one key to managing COPD is early intervention, the more people
are familiar with the symptoms, the greater the chances for earlier
diagnosis and starting a treatment plan to help improve quality of life.

COPD is a serious respiratory disease that over time makes it
increasingly difficult to breathe. In people with COPD, airways—tubes
that carry air in and out of the lungs—become partially blocked. When
severe, COPD can make the most basic of activities, such as taking a
walk, doing light housework, or even washing and dressing oneself, a
challenge. Increased awareness of COPD is an important part of early
detection and treatment efforts, as more than 15 million people are
currently diagnosed with the disease in the United States, and it is
estimated that millions more have it without realizing.

About half of both primary care physicians and nurse practitioners cite
the challenge of patients not fully disclosing symptoms as a barrier to
diagnosis. Many people suffering from the signs of COPD—such as
shortness of breath, chronic cough, and wheezing—often chalk them up to
seasonal allergies, the common cold, or simply consequences of growing
older. Luckily, in 2015, among those who had exhibited the symptoms,
about three-quarters indicated they had spoken to their healthcare
providers about these breathing issues, according to the results of the
annual DocStyles and HealthStyles surveys of public health attitudes,
knowledge, practices, and lifestyle habits conducted each year by Porter
Novelli. A majority of patients left these discussions with simple
action items intended to help them manage their symptoms and prevent
them from worsening.

One in seven American adults know someone suffering from the symptoms.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the
National Institutes of Health, encourages anyone at risk to become
familiar with COPD and talk to a healthcare provider as soon as
possible. Early detection and intervention can greatly help improve

Despite being the third leading cause of death, COPD, also known as
emphysema or chronic bronchitis, is by no means a death sentence. While
at present there is no cure, a variety of treatment options exist that
can lead to an improved quality of life.

For more information and resources, visit www.COPD.nhlbi.nih.gov, NHLBI’s COPD Learn More Breathe Better program.