COPD: A Major National Health Issue
On May 22, 2017, the NHLBI released its COPD National Action Plan, which they call a “blueprint” for patients, caregivers, health professionals, and policymakers. This plan was created so the country as a whole has something to follow to gain a greater hold on this far-too-common medical condition.
The NHLBI’s goal with this plan is to better educate the public and improve the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and management of this disease. It also hopes that the information provided enables the nation to take steps toward increasing research in this field, developing more comprehensive COPD care, and ultimately reducing the burden of this medical condition on the individuals and families it affects.
COPD afflicts16 million Americans, making it the fourth leading cause of death in the United States today.
But what exactly is COPD and why is it such a major concern?
What is COPD?
COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which the COPD Foundation says is actually an “umbrella term” used to identify three primary progressive lung diseases: emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and refractory (non-reversible) asthma.
The National Emphysema Foundation reports that roughly 3.1 million Americans have been diagnosed with emphysema, a condition that occurs when the walls between the lungs’ air sacs become damaged. This causes them to lose their shape, increase in size, and decrease in numbers, ultimately making it more difficult for the lungs to exchange gases effectively.
Approximately 8.9 million people, or 3.7% of the population, have been diagnosed with chronic bronchitis in the last year alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Healthline adds that, while this is a serious condition in and of itself because it is an inflammation of the bronchial tube lining, many people with chronic bronchitis eventually end up developing emphysema.