Better Living with COPD

New Zealanders, yet most have never even heard of it. Read about COPD below and tips on how to manage it.

What is COPD?

COPD is an umbrella term for a number of serious respiratory diseases, including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and chronic asthma.

How does it affect you?

When we breathe, air travels from our nose and mouth, down through our airways, and into our lungs. In people with COPD, this is obstructed in various ways; with emphysema, the air sacs in the lungs are gradually destroyed so people have difficulty absorbing enough oxygen, while in chronic bronchitis the airways become narrower and have increased mucus production and inflammation.

COPD symptoms are similar to asthma, and some people may have both conditions. In asthma, however, the narrowing of the airways is normally reversible, whereas in COPD it is not. The results are the same; the airways are obstructed and the tissue inside the lungs is damaged, making it harder to breathe. This leads to coughing, increased phlegm production, and breathlessness.

Diagnosing COPD

Most cases of COPD are caused by smoking, and it is most commonly diagnosed in people over 40. Unfortunately, COPD is often undiagnosed. It is believed that about 15% (200,000) of New Zealand’s adult population may be affected. A large proportion of COPD deaths are under-reported, but COPD is still the fourth leading cause of death

How to manage COPD

COPD progresses over time and, though it is not curable, can be controlled and further damage prevented. Ways to do this include; becoming smokefree, maintaining healthy body weight, correct use of medicines, keeping a warm and dry home, pulmonary rehabilitation, and practising correct breathing technique.

For more on how to manage your COPD, visit:

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