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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD is a lung disease that makes it very hard to breathe. It is caused by damage to the lungs over time, usually from smoking.

As reported by U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, it is the 4th leading cause of death in the United States. More than 12 million people are diagnosed with the disease, and another 12 million may have COPD, but not know it.

COPD can be a mix of:

  • Emphysema—When you have emphysema, the air sacs in your lungs are damaged; this makes it difficult for air to get in and out of your lungs and causes shortness of breath.
  • Chronic Bronchitis—When you have bronchitis, the airways that carry air into your lung are swollen and make mucus; this narrows or blocks your airways, making it difficult to breathe and causing you to cough.

COPD develops and gets worse over time. Its symptoms include shortness of breath or feeling like you can’t breathe, constant coughing and wheezing.

Risks for COPD

Some things increase an individual’s risk for developing COPD, including:

  • Smoking—This is the most common cause of COPD; research suggests that at least 10 out of 15 smokers develop COPD, and smoking accounts for 9 out of 10 COPD-related deaths.
  • Environmental exposure—COPD can occur if you’ve been exposed to irritants like chemicals, dust or fumes; secondhand smoke can also contribute to COPD.
  • Family history—A genetic condition called AAT deficiency (Alpha1-Antitrypsin Deficiency is a genetic condition you inherit) can cause COPD.
  • Chronic asthma—You can develop COPD if your lungs have permanent damage from asthma.

What You Can Do

Whether you are at risk for COPD or have been diagnosed, there are steps you can take to improve your health and quality of life.

  • Quit smoking—This is the most important step you can take to reduce your risk for COPD or improve your health if you suffer from the disease.
  • Talk with and see your doctor regularly—Your doctor can test you for COPD, help you quit smoking and prescribe medications that help control your symptoms.
  • Get a flu shot—The flu can cause serious problems for people with COPD.
  • Get a pneumonia vaccine shot—Pneumonia can cause serious problems for people with COPD, so ask your doctor about getting the pneumonia vaccine.

If your annual myhealthIQ results indicate you are at risk for COPD (tobacco user) or you already suffer from COPD, we encourage you to learn more about the Health Matters Lifestyle Management program; if you are invited to join our Chronic Disease Management program, enroll. These programs are available to eligible participants at no cost.

Also, learn all you can about your condition. These websites provide detailed information:

Frequently Asked Questions

Customer Service


JBT Health Matters Office

Condition-Related Links

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

For Help Quitting Smoking

Smoking Stops Here
1-800-QUIT NOW

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Page modified on 12/20/10 10:57 AM