New Patient Resource Released for COPD Awareness Month

(November 6, 2012)

If you were asked, “What is the third leading cause of death in America?” Would you know that the answer is COPD? If not, you’re not alone. That’s why the American Lung Association is doing what it can this November – COPD Awareness Month – to raise awareness about this deadly disease and help those with COPD manage it and lead healthier, more active lives.

COPD (short for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is a lung disease caused by one or more health problems and includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Over time, this disease makes it hard to breathe. Close to 13 million American adults have been diagnosed with COPD, and there are undoubtedly millions more of undiagnosed cases as estimates indicate that almost that many have evidence of impaired lung function.

Although COPD can’t be cured, it is often preventable and treatable, particularly when diagnosed early. People at risk of COPD, especially current and former smokers, should consult their physicians about a test called “spirometry” in order to diagnose the disease as early as possible and begin treatment.

New: COPD Action Plan

If you are diagnosed with COPD, the American Lung Association is ready to help with information and support. This year, we have created the COPD Action Plan a 2-in-1 personal tool that helps you talk with your doctor to make a COPD management plan that is best for you. With a plan, you will know how and when to take your medicines, when to call your healthcare provider and when to get emergency care.

Each person's COPD is different, so each management plan is different. We hope this tool will help you work with your doctor to make a plan that is right for you.

“The best way to manage the occasional worsening of COPD is being prepared and knowing what to do in advance - in other words, to have an ‘action plan’,” said Norman H. Edelman, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of the American Lung Association. “The Lung Association’s COPD Action Plan helps you do just that, in a way that’s both effective and easy to follow.”

COPD Basics:

  • COPD is a chronic disease that causes shortness of breath and makes breathing difficult and less effective.
  • COPD is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • Almost 13 million people have been diagnosed, but as many as another 12 million may have the disease and not know it.
  • COPD is preventable and treatable.
  • Getting diagnosed is done by a simple breathing test called spirometry.

Signs and symptoms of COPD include:

  • Constant coughing, sometimes called "smoker's cough"
  • Shortness of breath while doing everyday activities
  • Producing a lot of sputum (also called phlegm or mucus)
  • Feeling like you can't breathe or take a deep breath
  • Wheezing

Once Diagnosed:

  • If you’re a smoker – quit now!
  • Take any medicine you’re prescribed exactly as instructed. If you are having problems, talk with your healthcare provider about possible solutions.
  • Get active! Keep as physically fit as possible and discuss pulmonary rehabilitation with your physician. Pulmonary rehabilitation can help you rebuild strength and reduce shortness of breath.
  • Educate yourself. The Lung Association has a wealth of information and resources to help you better understand your lungs and COPD.
  • Get Support. Controlling COPD is easier as a team effort. Ask for and get support from those who love you.

COPD Support:

In your own community and nationwide, the American Lung Association has available: