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10 Things You Should Know About COPD

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10 Things You Should Know About COPD
by Nicholas Pacino


America, you might to think again before picking up a lighter and cigarette, for you may not be calculating the total cost. Well not only are you paying over $4 plus for the average pack of cigarettes, you will paying the price with serious health problems, one of them being COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Many times smokers will say “you have to die somehow.”

Well to those who smoke here are 10 things you should know about COPD:

1. COPD is most commonly caused by tobacco smoking, and characterized by a narrowing of the airways. Worldwide, COPD ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in 1990. It is projected to be the fourth leading cause of death worldwide by 2030 due to an increase in smoking rates and demographic changes in many countries.  COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.

2. Two forms of COPD are known as chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Bronchitis is characterized an inflammatory response in the larger airways in which people regularly cough up sputum, more widely known as mucus. Emphysema is also a chronic condition, characterized by the shortness of breath and the inability to tolerate physical exertion. The underlying problem is the destruction of the alveolar surfaces and inadequate surface area for oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange. In essence, respiratory bronchioles and alveoli functionally eliminated.

3. The costs of smoking are also something to think about. The average prices of cigarettes vary from state to state, but if we use the number $4.50 per pack some staggering figures can be calculated. If a person starts smoking around a pack a day at age 18 and does so for an even fifty years that entire cost would end up being $82,125. That’s a calculation that doesn’t even include price and tax increases which are inevitably going to occur. Not only does it incur the enormous personal expense but it also increases the costs of health care in the United States. The economic burden of COPD in the U.S. in 2007 was $42.6 billion in health care costs and lost productivity.

4. Signs and symptoms of COPD include:

  • shortness of breath, or dyspnea
  • persistent cough
  • mucus production
  • wheezing
  • chest tightness
  • tiredness

5. The greatest prevention of COPD is the cessation of smoking. There are many methods in the attempt to stop smoking, including: support groups, nicotine replacement therapy, and even prescription drugs. One drug, known as Wellbutrin, is more widely known as an anti-depressant, but has been more widely prescribed in recent years. The actual drug name is called Buproprion, and has been known to reduce nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms that smokers incur. Smoking cessation even after a long amount time as a smoker can greatly slow the progression of COPD.

6. The tests that measure the amount of air an individual can inhale and exhale, are commonly known as spirometry. An Inspiratory Reserve Volume (IRV) is the amount an individual can voluntarily inhale during a quiet respiratory cycle, or normal breathing. In a healthy, non-smoking, male can inhale around 3.3 L of air, while females, due to smaller lungs, can inhale about 1.9 L of air. ERV or Expiratory Reserve Volume is the amount an individual can voluntarily exhale during normal breathing.  Healthy, non-smoking males can voluntarily exhale about 1 L while females can exhale about 0.7 L.  These tests are useful in diagnosing COPD.

7. Treatment of COPD varies from bronchodilators to oxygen administration. A widely marketed drug known as Symbicort, budesonide/formoterol is an example of drug used to treat COPD. Budesonide, acts as anti-inflammatory drug, while Formoterol is a bronchodilator. While Symbicort may help conditions it does not stop the progress of the disease itself. Oxygen masks are also common supplement to COPD patients. It can improve an individual’s ability to be active in everyday living, as it helps with condition known as hypoxia, low levels of oxygen.

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8. Weight gain can have a negative affect on individuals with COPD. It can cause problems such as asthma and difficulty breathing during sleep, known as obstructive sleep apnea. Studies have also shown the individuals with COPD who exercise regularly can improve their symptoms.

9. Other factors of the disease might include air pollution. While smoking is the main cause of COPD, studies also show that COPD is more common in larger cities than in rural areas. Urban pollution is thought to be a contributing factor to COPD.

10. COPD will progressively get worse and can eventually lead to death. Different forms of cancer are eventual occurrences to those who smoke over a long period of time as well. Lung cancers, kidney cancer, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, are just a few that come along with the habit of smoking. Overall, tobacco is the single greatest cause of preventable death in the United States and worldwide.



Mathers CD, Loncar D (November 2006). “Projections of global mortality and burden of disease from 2002 to 2030”. PLoS Med. 3 (11): e442. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030442. PMC 1664601. PMID 17132052.


National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. 5 Jan 2010.


COPD – Signs and Symptoms: Heart Lung and Blood Institute. 5 Jan 2010.




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