The earlier COPD is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat.
COPD is no joke to Canadian comedian Mary Walsh. "It's shocking that so few Canadians know about COPD considering it's the fourth leading cause of death in this country," says Mary Walsh, spokesperson for The Canadian Lung Association. Walsh, best known for her work on This Hour has 22 Minutes, is helping raise awareness about COPD, a serious breathing disease that has affected three of her family members along with hundreds of thousands of other Canadians.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is still on the rise in Canada. COPD is the new term for emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It is growing in prevalence among younger Canadian baby boomers. In fact, according to research by The Canadian Lung Association, one in seven Canadians aged 45 to 49 may currently be living with COPD, and many more may be unaware they even have it.
"People may think that feeling short of breath is a normal sign of aging, but it's not," says Walsh. COPD symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, fatigue and frequent lung infections. "If you have any trouble with your breathing, go to your doctor and insist on a breathing test." COPD is diagnosed by spirometry, a simple test that measures how much air you can hold and move out of your lungs.
The good news is that COPD is treatable. "There are many treatments that will help individuals with COPD. The earlier the diagnosis, the more chance of reducing the longer term effects of the condition. High risk people (smokers over the age of 40 years) should be actively screened, so that COPD can be caught earlier and better managed," says Dr. Roger Goldstein, a respirologist at West Park Healthcare Centre in Toronto, Ontario, who is a spokesperson for the Canadian Lung Association and a member of the Canadian Thoracic Society.
Early treatment can reduce the decline in lung function and improve quality of life. A recent study published in The Lancet found that treatment of COPD should begin at an early stage of the disease to slow down its progression.