About one in eight adults over age 45 has COPD. But many people don’t know much about it.
A nagging cough and a feeling of breathlessness are hallmarks of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a group of lung-damaging conditions that slowly worsen over time. The two main and often overlapping conditions involve injury to the air sacs of the lungs (emphysema) and inflammation in the lung’s airways (bronchitis).
About 16 million Americans are currently living with COPD. But the disease is underrecognized and undertreated, and experts believe millions more may not realize they have it. In general, people are far more familiar with heart disease than COPD. So if they start feeling short of breath, they may attribute it to heart disease, or to simply growing older.
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About the Author
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter
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