How common is COPD

COPDChronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD, is very common these days, and it appears to be getting worse, especially amongst young women. COPD is a disease you can have and not know you have it.

Here are some COPD disease facts:

  • In the UK today, COPD is a disease that affects 2 in every 100 men and 1 in every 100 women (Source: Soriano JB, Maier WC, Egger P, et al. Recent trends in physician diagnosed COPD in women and men in the UK. Thorax. 2000; 55: 789-794.)
  • Over 600,000 people have been diagnosed with COPD, but three quarters of this number who have COPD may not be aware they have the disease (Source: The Respiratory Alliance. Bridging the gap: commissioning and delivering high quality integrated respiratory healthcare. January 2003. Available at (accessed on 20 April 2011).
  • More than half of these people who have COPD are men, howeve,r more and more women are now being diagnosed with the disease. Experts will tell you this could be due to the fact that more women started smoking after the end of World War II ( Source: Pride NB, Soriano JB. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in the United Kingdom: trends in mortality, morbidity, and smoking. Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine. 2002; 8: 95-101)
  • It is more likely that COPD will affect older people as opposed to younger people
  • One third of the people who have COPD have a mild version. Over half of the people have the disease moderately and a small number have the disease at a severe level.

COPD is a very serious disease and should never be ignored. In the UK alone more than 30,000 people die of the disease each year. The most common cause of COPD is smoking. Not only does smoking cause COPD but inhaling second hand smoke is also a contributor of full blown COPD. Air pollution, dust and chemicals are also causes of COPD.

COPD treatment has one main goal and that is to relieve you of the symptoms, improve your daily lung function and improve the quality of your life. Having a coordinated programme of lifestyle changes will help you to stay active and improve your overall health. In medical terms this is referred to as a pulmonary rehabilitation programme which is carried out at your local hospital by trained specialists.  These specialists will also advise you on exercises for overcoming respiratory conditions, shortness of breath as well as nutritional advise.

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