|New Survey Suggests Growing Awareness of
COPD, Nation's Fourth Leading Killer
Understanding of the Disease and its Risk Factors, Including
Smoking, Remains Low
Awareness of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is growing,
but few Americans have a thorough understanding of the disease,
according to a new national survey released today. The new data
show that 64 percent of survey respondents had heard of COPD, compared
with 49 percent in a 2004 survey. Among those who reported hearing
of COPD, only half recognized the disease as a leading cause of
death, and just 44 percent understood it to be treatable.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National
Institutes of Health analyzed results from the annual HealthStyles
survey of American public health attitudes, knowledge, practices,
and lifestyle habits, conducted each summer by Porter Novelli.
The fourth leading cause of death in the United States, COPD is
a serious lung disease affecting an estimated 24 million Americans.
More than 12 million people are currently diagnosed with COPD and
another 12 million may have COPD but remain undiagnosed despite
recognizable symptoms. COPD typically affects people over 45, especially
those who smoke or have smoked, and those with risk factors associated
with genetics or environmental exposures. Symptoms include chronic
cough, sometimes called "smoker's cough," shortness of
breath, wheezing, not being able to take a deep breath, and excess
"We are encouraged that people are becoming more aware of
the term COPD," said Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D., director, NHLBI. "But
the survey also indicates that we as a public health community
have much more work to do to promote greater understanding of the
disease, its symptoms, and risk factors, so that we can improve
rates of diagnosis and treatment."
While 74 percent of survey respondents correctly identified shortness
of breath as a symptom of COPD, only 5 percent recognized chronic
cough as a symptom of the disease. Smoking is attributed to as
many as 9 out of ten COPD-related deaths, yet most survey respondents — 66
percent — did not recognize smoking as a risk factor. This
was especially true among the current smokers surveyed. Just 22
percent recognized that their smoking puts them at greater risk
"This is perhaps the most distressing information that the
survey has brought to light," said James P. Kiley, Ph.D.,
director of the Division of Lung Diseases, NHLBI. "While we
applaud the millions of Americans who have heeded the public health
community's call to quit smoking, it's important that both current
and former smokers know that they remain at risk for COPD."
COPD can be diagnosed with a simple breathing test called spirometry.
Those at risk for COPD as well as those experiencing symptoms should
talk to their doctor about the test. Spirometry is not invasive
and can be conducted in the doctor's office. It involves breathing
out as hard and fast as possible into a tube connected to a machine
that measures lung function.
HealthStyles questionnaires were mailed in early summer of 2008
to a nationwide sample of 8,200 adults 18 years of age and older.
The results represent a sample of 5,399 households. The 2004 survey
of COPD awareness was conducted by the National Women's Health
Resource Center and Russell Marketing Research. That survey was
fielded in March, 2004 among 1,554 adults across the United States.
For those diagnosed with COPD, many treatments are available to
reduce symptoms, improve breathing, and help patients get back
to doing activities they used to do.
NHLBI launched the COPD Learn More Breathe Better campaign in
2007 to increase awareness and understanding of COPD and its risk
factors, and to underscore the benefits of early detection and
treatment in slowing the disease and improving quality of life.
The campaign is supported by more than 20 organizations including
leading medical professional societies, patient advocacy groups,
and corporate partners in facilitating this public health initiative.
November is National COPD Awareness Month. Sponsored by the U.S.
COPD Coalition, the observance is a time for organizations and
communities across the country to increase the overall awareness
of COPD. The COPD Learn More Breathe Better campaign is pleased
to support 'Learn About COPD Days', November 13-16, 2008, in honor
of COPD Awareness Month.
For more information on COPD, visit: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/lung/copd/ or http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Copd/Copd_WhatIs.html
NHLBI plans, conducts, and supports research related to the causes,
prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart, blood vessel, lung,
and blood diseases; and sleep disorders. The Institute also administers
national health education campaigns on COPD, women and heart disease,
healthy weight for children, and other topics. NHLBI press releases
and other materials are available online at www.nhlbi.nih.gov.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's
Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers
and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic,
clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates
the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.
For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.