Don't Let this Breath-taking Disease Rob You of All the Small Things; Act Now
TORONTO, Nov. 22, 2012 /CNW/ - For Brenda Cunningham, it's cooking bacon. For Donald Wylie it's eating fresh ripe tomatoes. For Lorraine LeBlanc, it's holding her grandchild in her lap. For Joan Morrison it's just simply being able to take a short walk. But for all four, it is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) that has turned these simple activities into a constant struggle.
While these "things" seem small, imagine if every small thing was a big deal? Or that each breath was like breathing air through a straw? That's the unfortunate reality for many of the roughly 3.1 million Canadians estimated to be living with COPD.1
If undiagnosed or unmanaged, the disease can progress and worsen, disrupting all those small things that together can have a big impact on a person's quality of life.2 But it's not just life's pleasures that can be affected, it's the simple daily activities such as going up and down stairs, bathing, or even tying shoes that can be a challenge for those with COPD.3
"I didn't truly realize the impact COPD could have on a person, until I experienced it firsthand. I now know that every step, every chore, every activity leaves me breathless," said Joan Morrison, 75, who was diagnosed with COPD more than 10 years ago. "I thought having trouble breathing was just a sign of getting older, but it ended up being much more serious when my doctor diagnosed me with COPD."
Small Things Can Make a Difference
As people age, they may become more aware of lifestyle changes they can make that will help them maintain their health and vitality in the future. Yet, when it comes to COPD - the fourth leading cause of death in Canada - too few people think about screening for early diagnosis or management of the disease.1,2
With a disease as serious as COPD, it's vital to act now so it can be caught early. However, a new Canadian survey of people in Ontario and Quebec reveals that the majority of respondents (60%) say they are unfamiliar with COPD.4
And despite 69 per cent of those respondents over the age of 40 having one or more risk factors for developing COPD, 40 per cent said they were surprised to learn that they were at risk of developing this disease.4
"COPD is devastating and disabling, and unfortunately - despite the high prevalence rate - a highly under-diagnosed disease," said George Habib, President and CEO, Ontario Lung Association. "This does not have to be the case. As part of a comprehensive Lung Health Action Plan, early detection and early intervention can change the course of COPD, allowing patients to be identified and treated earlier.The key to this is encouraging those at risk or experiencing early symptoms to have a simple test done, called spirometry."
There are currently 780,000 Ontarians living with COPD, and the number of people with COPD is expected to escalate to 1.2 million in the next 30 years.5
"While there is no cure for COPD, the sooner a person takes action, the sooner the disease can be managed," says Dr. Alan Kaplan, a family physician with a special interest in respiratory medicine. "COPD is treatable at any stage of the illness. Through a management strategy of medications, rehabilitation and smoking cessation, patients can achieve improved quality of life and better symptom control."
If you are over the age of 40, a smoker or former smoker, and have an extended cough, regular phlegm production, shortness of breath when doing simple tasks, or you're easily fatigued,2 it is important to speak to your doctor or visit www.on.lung.ca.
"I always imagined that my retirement years would be spent playing with my grandchildren, not worrying about my next lung attack," said Lorraine Leblanc, 77, who was diagnosed with COPD at the age of 40. "I know now that knowledge is power. The more informed you are of treatment and rehabilitation options, the better quality of life you can have."
COPD is a progressive disease that leads to deteriorating lung function and impacts a person's ability to breathe. Symptoms of COPD include extended coughing, coughing-up phlegm regularly, shortness of breath, wheezing when you exert yourself, and frequent colds that persist. 2
One of the complications of uncontrolled COPD is exacerbations or "lung attacks." A "lung attack" is when a person experiences worsening of symptoms. Like a heart attack, a lung attack causes lasting damage to a patient's lungs, resulting in hospitalizations and has similar mortality rates.6
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Notes to Editor:
A recent questionnaire of COPD ambassadors associated with the Ontario Lung Association asked them to list some of the small things in their life that have been impacted by COPD and what advice would you give your 40 year old self. Here are their responses:
All the Small Things
- Tomatoes. I can't eat tomatoes now because I worry about the tomato seeds making me cough and then having a lung attack.
- I used to love having flowers and plants all over my house. Now I can't have them because the smells might set off my lungs.
- Gardening and enjoying outdoor activities in summer, fall and winter.
- Frying any items on the stove.
- Playing a round of golf, something I expected to do come my retirement years.
- Multi-tasking; like walking, talking, and chewing gum at the same time.
- Cooking. I have always loved it. Now it's a struggle to cook for myself.
- Going dancing...even a slow waltz would be wonderful.
- Playing tennis.
- Not being able to hold my small grandchild on my lap.
I wish I knew what I know now, when I was 40:
- Take care of your lungs as best you can, they have to last you a lifetime. Without them you don't get far.
- Get tested for COPD.
- Exercise daily, eat healthy and don't worry if the housework is not done. Go for a walk, spend quality time with your family because life is for living, not for worrying about what needs to be done.
- You should never have started to smoke.
About All the Small Things Matter Survey
The survey was completed on-line from March 26 to March 30, 2012, using Leger Marketing's online panel, LegerWeb. The sample consisted of 1,500 respondents from Ontario and Quebec, 35 years of age or older, and target both smokers and ex-smokers. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/-2.53%, 19 times out of 20.4
- Sixty per cent of people say they are not familiar with COPD. In addition, many are not aware of some of the most common symptoms:
- Only one-in-three individuals surveyed were aware that re-occurring and persistent colds were symptoms of COPD.
- Nearly half of the survey respondents were unaware that fatigue (50%), bringing- up phlegm (49%), and coughs lasting longer than two weeks (51%) are symptoms of COPD.
- Sixty-nine per cent of respondents in Ontario and Quebec, who are over the age of 40, have one or more risk factors for developing COPD.
- Yet, 40 per cent of those at risk said they were surprised to learn that they were at risk of developing COPD.
- Sixty-one per cent of those diagnosed with COPD say they still experience "lung attacks."
- Nearly 25 per cent of COPD patients are unaware of treatments and management plans for their "lung attacks."
- Twelve per cent said that dealing with "lung attacks" is just part of the disease. Thirteen per cent said that despite suffering from persistent lung attacks, they have not spoken to their doctor.
All the Small Things4
According to the survey, 98 per cent of respondents said that as they age, they want to maintain their daily routines and activity levels. Furthermore, 94 per cent of respondents hope to maintain a level of exercise, sports and socializing, while 83 per cent want to be able to continue working without their health affecting their decisions.
Some of the small things people said they couldn't live without include:
1 Canadian Lung Association: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in Canada. 2007. Accessed February 2012 at http://www.lung.ca/_resources/COPD_in_Canada_CLA_2007.pdf.
2 O'Donnell DE. Hernandez P. Kaplan A. Aaron S. Bourbeau J. Marciniuk D. et al. Canadian Thoracic Society recommendations for management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - 2008 update - highlights for primary care. Can Respir J. 2008. 15 (Suppl A): 1A-8A.
3 Kuyucu T. Güçlü S. Saylan B. Demir C. Şenol T. Güner S. et al. A cross-sectional observational study to investigate daily symptom variability, effects of symptom on morning activities and therapeutic expectations of patients and physicians in COPD-SUNRISE study. Tüberküloz ve Toraks Dergisi. 2011. 59(4): 328-339.
4 Leger Marketing. COPD Study. Conducted March 2012. Margin of error of +/-2.53%, 19 times out of 20.
5 Ontario Lung Association: Life and Economic Burden of Lung Disease in Ontario: 2011 to 2041. Accessed April 2012 at http://www.on.lung.ca/page.aspx?pid=758.
6 Canadian Thoracic Society/Canadian Lung Association: The Human and Economic Burden of COPD. 2010. Accessed February 2012 at http://www.lung.ca/cts-sct/pdf/COPDReport_E.pdf.
SOURCE: Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd.
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