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Learning to Cope with COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease that is affecting a growing number of Americans.

A categorization that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, COPD – which makes it hard to breathe – is quite common. According to the CDC, some states have a prevalence of up to 12%. Fortunately, the chronic disease is treatable and often preventable.

Risk Factors

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute says that the primary cause of COPD is “long-term exposure to lung irritants that damage the lungs and the airways.” The most common type of lung irritant, of course, is from smoking. Other causes are:

  • Secondhand smoke: Make your home a smoke-free place to protect both yourself and your family members. Learn about programs to stop smoking here.
  • Air pollution exposure: Take steps to protect yourself against breathing polluted air both indoors and outdoors.
  • Genetic condition known as Alpha-1 deficiency
  • Childhood history of respiratory infection


Oftentimes, the symptoms of COPD are not recognized until the disease is in its later stages. People may just think they’re getting older and not take these signs – particularly shortness of breath – as seriously as they should:

  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea) experienced during the course of daily activities
  • Persistent cough
  • Blue fingernail beds or lips (cyanosis)
  • Excessive mucus or phlegm
  • Repeated respiratory infections


Your doctor will look at your symptoms, asking for your health history and conduct an exam. You may take a breathing test known as spirometry, which measures the amount of air you inhale and exhale. Spirometry can also be given to test the effectiveness of your COPD treatments.
The pulmonary rehabilitation program at Southeastern Med helps patients minimize the symptoms of COPD and other pulmonary conditions through education, aerobic exercises, nutrition, energy conservation and stress reduction techniques.

For more information on the program and assistance in determining if your insurance will cover pulmonary rehabilitation, call us at 740.439.8528.

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