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November is COPD Awareness Month

Breathlessness, frequent coughing, wheezing—these are just some of the symptoms more than 30 million Americans suffer every day because of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, more commonly known as “COPD.”

COPD is an umbrella term used to describe progressive lung diseases, including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, non-reversible asthma and some forms of bronchiectasis. It’s a disease Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center Pulmonologist Dr. Ala Mortazavi of Virginia Pulmonary Associates sees every day. According to him, COPD is much more common than people realize: “The common misconception about COPD is that it’s rare. The sad fact is COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease, cancer and stroke.”

COPD affects the lungs, causing reduced airflow, which makes it hard to breathe. The disease is most common in people 40 and older, who have a history of smoking. According to the COPD Foundation, nearly 90 percent of those diagnosed with the disease have smoked.

However, COPD can also occur in those with a genetic predisposition and those who have had long-term contact with harmful pollutants. “The damage COPD does to the lungs cannot be reversed,” explains Dr. Mortazavi. “However, treatment can slow or halt the progression of the disease and help the patient feel better.”

Treatments like oxygen therapy, increased exercise and medications can benefit patients and help them manage their condition. Still, experts say stopping smoking has been the only thing proven to slow the progression of COPD. If you or someone you love is living with COPD, call 1-800-SENTARA to get in touch with a specially trained, certified pulmonologist, who can help determine the best care for you.

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