Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive form of lung disease ranging from mild to severe. It is characterized by a restriction of airflow into and out of the lungs that makes breathing difficult. The term COPD encompasses emphysema and/or chronic bronchitis.
Busting COPD Myths
Nearly half of people who suffer from COPD, do so undiagnosed, and few people know much about the disease. Most don’t learn about COPD until it affects them or someone they care about. To better understand COPD, let’s examine a few myths about the disease.
COPD Is a Man’s Disease.
More than 12 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD. Another 12 million have it, but aren’t aware–both men and women. In fact, COPD is more prevalent among women than men.
Breathlessness Is a Normal Consequence of Aging.
Many people attribute breathlessness to simply getting older. In fact, breathlessness is a possible result of many health conditions and is a primary symptom of COPD. If you experience symptoms, don’t ignore them. Discuss symptoms with your doctor.
I’m Better off on the Couch.
Sitting on the couch is one way to avoid COPD-related breathlessness and fatigue, but it’s important to not let illness hinder your ability to live a normal, happy life. The more you exercise (within reason and according to your doctor’s instructions), the more stamina you’ll have for doing the things you want to do.
You may feel your best at rest, but exercising builds your tolerance for more prolonged activity. To start, join a pulmonary rehabilitation program, take a daily walk, or try a simple program such as Couch to 5k.
It’s Too Late for Kicking the Habit to Make a Difference.
Quitting smoking doesn’t cure COPD, but it can stop further lung damage and allow lung function to improve with time. Giving up smoking can make you feel better and reduce your risk for other serious health problems, such as heart disease and cancer. If you smoke, quit now.
COPD Can’t Be Treated.
COPD is not a hopeless condition. Although a cure is currently unknown, treatment options are available that can promote healing in your lungs and improve your quality of life.
COPD can affect anyone. In the United States, approximately 14.2 million people have COPD. Additionally, it is estimated that an equal number of US citizens may have undiagnosed COPD. According to the American Lung Association, COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States. However, there are treatment options available.