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Smokers in Monett are at increased risk for COPD

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The average Monett resident takes about 21,600 breaths a day. These breaths are easy ones, without pain or stress. But for people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), simply breathing in and out can be very hard.

November is National COPD Awareness Month. COPD, which includes emphysema or chronic bronchitis, is a serious but preventable disease that progressively harms the lungs and leads to thousands of deaths each year. COPD is most commonly caused by cigarette smoking. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COPD caused more than 126,000 deaths in the United States in 2005 and it is the third leading cause of death in the nation.

People afflicted with COPD are typically 40 and older who are current or former smokers. COPD limits the airflow in and out of the lungs. This means it reduces the amount of oxygen that your body receives. It also causes shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing. Smoking, the leading cause of the disease, is responsible for 80 to 90 percent of COPD-related deaths.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reports 227 of Barry County residents died from COPD between 1998 and 2008. Not only is COPD deadly, but it often leads to many trips to the hospital. In Barry County, there were 426 hospitalizations between 2004 and 2008 due to the disease.

"Smoking is the risk factor for COPD, causing 85-90% of COPD deaths," said Michelle Bernth, Senior Vice President of Communication for the American Lung Association. "The most important thing that someone can do to improve their health is to quit smoking."

Other sources of air pollution, including secondhand tobacco smoke, dust, and chemical fumes can also cause COPD by irritating and damaging the lungs. COPD can be prevented and treated in most cases. The damage from COPD is irreversible, however quitting smoking or stopping exposure to secondhand smoke can keep the damage from getting worse. The key is making sure that COPD is diagnosed as early as possible.

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) states that there are more than 24 million Americans with COPD, but only half of those people know it. COPD is a disease that takes time to develop. Many people may not be aware of the signs, and may wait too long to get help. The longer a person waits to get help, the worse the disease can get.

Signs of COPD can be having a lot of mucus, or steady coughing, often called smoker's cough. Wheezing, feeling like you can't breathe, or not being able to take a deep breath can all be signs, too. Other signs may be more subtle, like tightness in the chest or having trouble with daily tasks like doing laundry.

Early detection can help prevent COPD from becoming worse. To help prevent COPD, the CDC suggests you:

* Avoid tobacco. This includes secondhand smoke. If you do smoke, it's important to quit before COPD develops or worsens.

* Avoid air toxins. Over time, dust, smoke, and strong fumes can make breathing difficult. Special allergy air filters for your cooling and heating systems can also improve the air you breathe.

* See your doctor if you're having trouble. A simple test can help detect if you have COPD and your doctor can set up a treatment plan.

The American Lung Association offers Better Breathers Clubs, which are support groups for people living with COPD. To find a BBC near you, visit http://www.lungusa.org/lung-disease/copd....

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