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Thursday, January 13, 2011

COPD more common than thought

When I started RT school 15 years ago I saw a pulmonologist who had a chart on the wall that showed how most Americans will get COPD at some point in their lives. It showed a chart that graphed how as we aged, COPD prevalence increased.

So we are all susceptible to getting COPD. What speeds up this process, and therefore the process of aging, are certain chemicals, many of which are prevalent in cigarette smoke. And this is why cigarette smoke is the main cause (like 80% of cases) in COPD in people under 80 years of age.

Likewise, of all cases of COPD, 80% are current or former cigarette smokers. Likewise, of all people who smoke, 20% will be diagnosed with COPD.

As Jeffrey Hersh of Gateway News Service writes here, COPD is thought to be prevalent in 10% of Americans over the age of 40, and is the 4th leading cause of death in the United States. Yet, he writes, "Evidence of COPD is found in two-thirds of men and over a quarter of women (this is increasing) at autopsy, so it is more common than this 10 percent figure suggests."

And despite current statistics, more than just the 20% of smokers and 10% of Americans will have to make lifestyle changes due to the effects of COPD. At least this is according to autopsy reports.

However, as I noted in my opening paragraph, this is not new news. Even in old asthma books I've read dating back to the early 1800ss, doctors and asthma (which back then included all lung disorders, including COPD and heart failure) found that emphysema was prevalent in most asthma patient autopsies.

Other than smoking, here are some risk factors for developing COPD:
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Other chemical or irritant exposure (occupational, wood smoke, pollution,etc.)
  • Asthma (hyperresponsiveness or allergies)
  • Alpha 1 antitrypsin deficiency
  • Tuberculosis
  • Bronchopulmonary dysplasia
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Lupis
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • HIV (may make COPD worse)
  • Obesity (may make COPD worse)
  • Very skinny (may make COPD worse)
  • Aging
There is no cure for COPD, so Dr. Hersh notes if you develop COPD, you should heed the following advice:
  • If you smoke, stop
  • Avoid exposure to chemical and other respiratory irritants
  • Keep your weight at a healthy level
For more information about COPD, check out this link: COPD wisdom

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