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Pioneering Rehabilitation

You Have COPD. Now What?

Published May 1, 2013

By Richard Novitch, M.D.
Director, Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program

COPD is the third most common group of illnesses in the United States and it is the only illness whose frequency is increasing. COPD includes a bunch of diagnoses that include chronic bronchitis, emphysema, asthma and bronchiectasis. Recent studies show that 26 million Americans, or 8.4% of the U.S. population, have COPD. So you are not alone.

The first thoughts that come to mind when you are told you have COPD are usually quite negative.  This is understandable.  But COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. The first word is chronic which means a long time.  So your job is to do whatever you can do to live the best life possible with the most confidence. And the first step you can take to living a healthier life is to quit smoking.

Of all the COPD cases, 95 percent are related to cigarette smoking. Cigarette smoking causes a type of lung damage that mimics the natural aging process of the lung. Therefore, if you smoke, you may experience the symptoms of COPD even if you gave up cigarettes a long time ago. 

That being said, the most important thing you can do when diagnosed with lung disease is to give up smoking as soon as possible. Stopping smoking is much more powerful than any treatment a doctor can offer you. When your lung is damaged, you need as much of your normal/healthy lung as possible so even just one more cigarette is detrimental. In addition, smoking is actually worse for your heart than your lung, and most patients with COPD have both heart and lung problems.

My message to you is to stop smoking and arm yourself with knowledge and a plan so you can live the best life possible.

To read other blog post by Dr. Novitch and the rest of Burke's doctors, visit Burke's Rehab Insights blog.