Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is one of the most common respiratory illnesses among Americans, affecting almost 12 million people—one in every 35 people—and it is caused by smoking. Every smoker is at risk for COPD, the risk goes up the longer he or she smokes, and while quitting will reduce the risk it will most likely never be as low as it was before the person started smoking. Nearly every case of COPD can be traced back to tobacco smoke. Most of the rest are caused by long-term occupational exposure to particles and pollutants.
COPD itself raises the risk of several other conditions. People who develop COPD are more likely to also develop other medical problems. One estimate claims three percent of all disability throughout the world is due to COPD. The disorder in particular raises he risk for high blood pressure, lung cancer, and heart failure. In fact, there is significant overlap between the symptoms of the two conditions. People with COPD in one study were more than twice as likely to experience heart failure. Among people under 60, COPD patients were nearly four times as likely. Moreover those with both heart failure and COPD had longer hospital stays than the people with heart failure alone.
There is also evidence that it can lead to cognitive impairment. Memory is usually relatively unaffected, but other cognitive functions are diminished by COPD. It only causes what doctors refer to mild cognitive impairment, but it nonetheless affects functioning. All the people in the study were healthy before developing COPD. Another affect COPD can have on he brain is depression. More than just mourning for oneself such as a person might do who was told they have an incurable and often terminal illness, but full-on depression. COPD can lead to a sense of helplessness that can make it difficult to enjoy life, leading to depression.
The damage of COPD is irreversible, but there are things a person can do to manage the illness. Research shows that a two-mile daily walk can reduce the severity and number of attacks, thus reducing the amount of time spent in the hospital. Stress management techniques are also important.