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COPD and the Elderly

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a term used to group two long-term diseases in which individuals find it hard to get air in and out of their lungs. COPD can include a combination of both emphysema and chronic bronchitis and is typically diagnosed after the age of 45 years old.

COPD is a progressive disease, meaning it worsens over time and can have a high impact on quality of life and mortality.


When you breathe in, air flows in through your trachea (windpipe) into smaller branches of airways, and finally into the alveoli. Alveoli are tiny air sacs in the lungs where the oxygen you inhale gets carried into the bloodstream. For those who suffer from Emphysema, the alveoli begin to collapse, which traps air in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe out. The main symptom of this disease is shortness of breath, progressively occurring even during tasks that used to be easier to complete.

Chronic Bronchitis

This term refers to long-term irritation and inflammation of the airways that carry oxygen into your lungs and remove carbon dioxide. When the airways are irritated, they produce excessive mucus. This extra mucus can build up in the airways, blocking the flow of air. Typically, symptoms include a cough that brings up mucus and lasts at least 3 months. This cough may go away then come back again.

Causes of COPD

Smoking has become the number one leading cause of COPD with almost 80% of COPD patients have been or are currently smokers. Other risk factors for the disease include exposure to secondhand smoke, air pollution, chemicals, or industrial dust. Asthma and frequent use of cooking gas or fires without proper ventilation are also risk factors that can cause COPD.


There is no cure for COPD, but putting systems in place to improve your health and lifestyle can assist in managing symptoms. Quitting smoking, medications, oxygen therapeutic devices, and surgery are some of the ways to treat and manage COPD. Consult your physician for the best options for you.

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