By Chris Iliades, MD
COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung condition for which there is no cure. Instead, care for COPD patients focuses on managing symptoms. COPD can be genetic in some cases, but for many quitting smoking or not starting at all can prevent the condition. Despite its prevalence, people worldwide don’t seem to get the message. COPD deaths are rising, not declining. Here’s more about COPD by the numbers.
64,000,000: The estimated number of people who have COPD worldwide.
It’s likely the actual number of people with COPD is higher because the condition is underdiagnosed, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In the United States, about 11.8 million men and women have COPD, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis — both are progressive, life-threatening, and not completely reversible.
5 percent: The percentage of deaths worldwide attributable to COPD.
The latest statistics show that more than 3 million people die each year of COPD. COPD changes the lungs by causing the sacs at the very end of the airways to lose their elasticity. The walls between air sacs can be destroyed, and the airways can become thickened and filled with mucus. People with COPD may struggle to walk, eat, and perform basic self-care.
40: The age at which most people with COPD begin to have symptoms.
Many people don’t notice COPD symptoms until later in life, but the condition often begins developing earlier. A persistent cough that produces lots of mucus, commonly called smoker’s cough, could be the first clue. Other symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, exhaustion with activity, wheezing, and chest tightness.
10.4 percent: The percentage of women between 65 and 74 who have COPD.
Although COPD was once more common in men, it now affects men and women equally around the world, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the United States,COPD rates in women are actually higher in every age group except for people older than 74. The increase of COPD in women, according to the WHO, is due to an increase in the number of women smoke in higher-income countries.
90 percent: The percentage of COPD deaths that occur in people in low- to middle-income countries.
In the United States, COPD prevalence decreases as income increases. People who live below the federal poverty level have the highest rate of COPD, and those with incomes well above the poverty level have the lowest rates of COPD in women and men. Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky are the states with the highest rates of COPD. California, Oregon, and Washington have some of the lowest rates.
85 percent: The estimated percentage of COPD deaths caused by smoking in the United States.
This is one COPD statistic that should hit home for smokers. Most people with COPD either currently smoke or have smoked in the past. That includes pipes and cigars in addition to cigarettes. Other risk factors for COPD include air pollution, exposure to dust or fumes at work, and secondhand smoke. If you smoke and have a family history of COPD, your COPD risk could be even higher.
49 billion: The number, in dollars, that COPD cost the United States in 2010.
That number includes treatment and lost income from COPD death and disability. Half of all peoplediagnosed with COPD say it limits their ability to work.
30 percent: The percentage by which COPD deaths are expected to rise worldwide in the next 10 years.
Use these tips to protect yourself from COPD: If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quit now. If you have trouble quitting, ask your doctor for help. If you have symptoms of COPD, talk with your doctor right away — treatment can slow the progression of COPD, and the earlier you start, the better your chances. Now is the time to start reducing your COPD risk.