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Where Exactly is COPD?

10 Nov 2014
| Under COPD, Lung Disease | Posted by | 3 Comments
Where Exactly is COPD? Lung Institute

COPD in Rural America

The effects of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are well-known. Over 12 million Americans are estimated to suffer from symptoms of COPD like chronic coughing and shortness of breath. However, the causes of COPD are much more difficult to pinpoint. With COPD rates in rural America continuing to grow, environmental factors like pollution and industrial-type work environments seem to not be a large factor. So why is COPD more prevalent in rural America?

Smoking Rates and COPD

In 2012, the Institute for Health Metrix and Evaluation released a report on the tobacco smoking rates throughout American communities. The largest pockets of smokers in the United States coincides with high COPD rates. These areas include:

  • Kentucky
  • West Virginia
  • Tennessee
  • Along the Mississippi River in Arkansas and Southern Missouri
  • Southeastern Oklahoma
  • Central Alaska
  • South-central Nevada

In these communities, adults who smoke comprise between 30 and 40 percent of the population. Likewise, the corresponding COPD prevalence in these areas is between 10 and 26 percent of all adults.

Education and COPD

The connection between smoking and COPD has long been known. Not completely surprising is the connection between education levels and the prevalence of COPD. People who do not have a college degree tend to have a greater risk of developing lung disease. The reasoning behind this trend is mostly unknown, but it could be that people who don’t have a formal education are less aware of the health risks corresponding with smoking and certain occupations.  As of 2012, the states with the lowest education levels and the highest COPD rates are:

  • Kentucky
  • West Virginia
  • Alabama
  • Oklahoma
  • Nevada
  • Arkansas
  • Tennessee

Under 25 percent of the people living in these states have completed a college degree. Although COPD rates vary by specific counties, between 10 and 26 percent of the population in these states have COPD.

Access to Healthcare and COPD

A recent study found that there is also a large connection between access to healthcare and COPD rates. Specifically, people who do not have health insurance are at higher risk of COPD. Most people who do not have health insurance do not get regular checkups from a physician, which can lead to a lack of preventative medicine practices. The areas with a low number of people with insurance and a high COPD rate are:

  • Kentucky
  • West Virginia
  • Along the Mississippi River in Arkansas and Southern Missouri
  • Southeastern Oklahoma
  • South-central Nevada

Less than 67 percent of the people in these areas have insurance. The COPD rate is likewise between 10 and 26 percent in these areas.

Not surprising, the areas of the country with poor access to healthcare are also the same areas that have lower formal education rates as well as a higher rate of adult smokers. These areas also seem to have a high poverty rates as well, which may be the largest underlying factor of COPD prevalence. To help prevent development of COPD, have a regular checkup with your doctor and educate yourself on the causes of lung disease. Of course, smoking cessation is the first step in a life free of COPD. If you or a loved one suffers from smoking-related diseases and want to learn more about treatment optionscontact us or call (800) 729-3065.


  1. Pingback: Lung Institute |Fact: You Don't Have To Smoke To Have COPD

  2. Karen Clark

    2 years ago

    Are you located in Kentucky , and do you do the stem cell therapy at a hospital here? How do you go about finding a doctor, in KY, that can do the procedure, here in KY? I can not find any information that specifically answers those questions… Thank you

  3. Pingback: Lung Disease: Can I Get COPD If I've Never Smoked?

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