Results of first-ever state study of COPD released

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Age-adjusted rates of those afflicted by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) vary considerably within the United States. The low of less than 4% was reported from residents of Washington and Minnesota; the highest prevalence of more than 9% was found in Alabama and Kentucky.

The levels are part of the newly released 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey. The National Institutes of Health's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the CDC were involved in the study.

"COPD is a tremendous public health burden and a leading cause of death. It is a health condition that needs to be urgently addressed, particularly on a local level," said Nicole Kosacz, M.P.H., an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and one of the lead analysts of the data.

COPD includes the conditions emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It is characterized by shortness of breath, chronic coughing or wheezing, or excess sputum production. Many people ignore the early symptoms and seek diagnosis and treatment in its late, harsher stages.

The BRFSS survey found that nationwide, 6% of non-institutionalized adults, or approximately 15 million people, reported having COPD, with the highest prevalence clustered around the Ohio and lower Mississippi rivers. The total is likely much higher because the study did not survey older adults in institutions such as nursing homes.

Results from the more detailed surveys included:

  • 71% percent of those reporting COPD were diagnosed via spirometry — a simple test to assess breathing
  • 62.5% felt that symptoms adversely affected their quality of life
  • 51% were taking at least one daily medication to manage their COPD, with rates of medication usage increasing with age

Almost 500,000 people participated, 39,000 of them with COPD. Click here to see the the full BRFSS COPD data.

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