COPD in Tennessee
Posted on December 02, 2015 |
In a recent piece published by the Knoxville News Sentinel, COPD Suffocating Tennessee’s Health, Mike Leventhal, executive director of Tennessee’s Men’s Health Network and Stephanie Williams of the COPD Foundation, described the high prevalence rates of COPD in Tennessee. Nearly 9 percent of Tennesseans live with this progressive lung disease, causing the state to have the third highest rate nationwide. Of the 500,000 individuals in Tennessee living with COPD, most will not seek treatment or even realize they have the disease until they have lost more than half of their lung function.
Leventhal and Williams explained that many Tennesseans ignore the warning signs - breathlessness and coughing - as many associate those symptoms with aging. Medical professionals also experience challenges in identifying COPD in symptomatic individuals. They pointed out that treatments do exist to slow the decline in lung function and improve patients’ quality of life. Medication, pulmonary rehabilitation, and supplemental oxygen are just some of the ways individuals can prevent their symptoms from getting worse. While there is no cure for COPD, there were more than 40 new medications in development to treat the disease as recently as last summer.
The authors stressed the importance of getting screened for COPD early, and noted that the Men’s Health Network has partnered with the COPD Foundation in its outreach efforts, as men are less likely than women to visit a physician. They explained that the top three risk factors for developing the disease include smoking, environmental factors, and genetics. COPD most often occurs in people 40 years of age and older who have a history of smoking.
While not everyone who smokes will develop COPD, and not everyone with COPD is a smoker, many of the individuals diagnosed with the disease have smoked in their lifetime. Individuals who have had long-term contact with harmful pollutants in the workplace including certain chemicals, dust, or fumes can also develop COPD. Even if an individual has never smoked or been exposed to environmental toxins, they can still develop the disease through genetic factors.
Mike Leventhal is the executive director of Tennessee Men’s Health Network, whose mission is to reach men, boys, and their families where the live, work, play, and pray with health prevention messages and tools, screening programs, educational materials, advocacy opportunities, and patient navigation.
Stephanie Williams works at the COPD Foundation, which was established to undertake initiatives that result in expanded services for COPD and improve the lives of individuals affected by COPD.