The Canadian Lung Association

The Canadian Lung Association

November 16, 2011 09:44 ET

Canadian Lung Association: Stop Lung Attacks! Find Out How to Prevent COPD Flare-Ups

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Nov. 16, 2011) - Something as simple as catching a cold or flu, or going outside on a very cold day can trigger a "lung attack" for someone with a serious lung disease known as COPD.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is more commonly known as emphysema and chronic bronchitis; it is a progressive lung disease that, over time, makes it hard to breathe.

A COPD flare-up happens when COPD symptoms get worse, or when new symptoms develop. Flare-ups are also called exacerbations or "lung attacks". Left untreated, COPD flare-ups can have deadly consequences.

"An acute flare-up of COPD symptoms can be as serious as a heart attack, causing significant and lasting damage to the lungs or airways, and may result in the need for hospitalization and even death," says Dr. Paul Hernandez, a COPD spokesperson for the Canadian Lung Association. "

According to a Canadian study recently published in The Lancet, a British medical journal, one in four women and one in three men, aged 35 and older, are at risk of developing the condition by age 80.

COPD is a major cause for hospital stays and emergency room visits across Canada, according to a 2010 study by the Canadian Thoracic Society, the medical section of the Canadian Lung Association.1 The study found that reducing COPD flare-ups of the disease can help to reduce hospitalizations.2

"If you have COPD, it is important to prevent flare-ups and understand the signs and symptoms of flare-ups," says Dr. Hernandez, a respirologist at the Queen Elizabeth ll Health Sciences Centre, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

"Patients can reduce the risk of flare-ups by ensuring that they take medications as prescribed, follow their doctor's advice about vaccinations for flu and pneumonia, quit smoking, and engage in regular physical activity," says Donna Goodridge, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan College of Nursing and a co-chair of the COPD Clinical Assembly. "Families and caregivers also play an important role in improving a patient's quality of life, and that's why we encourage them to contact their local Lung Association for help."

The Canadian Lung Association offers support and advice on COPD through its free COPD helpline, 1-866-717-COPD (2673).

How to prevent flare-ups

Warning signs and symptoms of a flare-up

What to do if you have a flare-up and when to get emergency help

Test your knowledge of COPD – take The Lung Association's COPD Quiz

About the Canadian Lung Association

Established in 1900, The Lung Association is one of Canada's oldest and most respected health charities, and the leading national organization for science-based information, research, education, support programs and advocacy on lung heath issues.

About the Canadian Thoracic Society (CTS)

The CTS is the medical section of The Canadian Lung Association. It advises the Association on scientific matters and programs, including policies regarding support for research and education. The CTS provides a forum whereby medical practitioners and investigators may join in the study of lung diseases, develop clinical practice guidelines based on best science, and provide continuing education to medical and healthcare professionals.

The CTS aims to maintain the highest professional and scientific standards in all aspects of respiratory diseases through leadership, education, research and communication.

About the Canadian Respiratory Health Professionals (CRHP)

The Canadian Respiratory Health Professionals (CRHP) is the Lung Association's multidisciplinary allied health professional section. The CRHP welcomes nurses, respiratory therapists, cardio-pulmonary physiotherapists, pharmacists, and other allied health professional working in the respiratory field.

1 Canadian Thoracic Society, The Human and Economic Burden of COPD: A leading cause of hospital admission in Canada

2 Ibid.

COPD Backgrounder

What is COPD?

COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the new name for chronic bronchitis and emphysema. COPD is a long-term lung disease often caused by smoking. COPD slowly damages your airways, the breathing tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. COPD makes airways swollen and partly blocked by mucus. It also damages the tiny air sacs at the end of your airways. This makes it hard to move air in and out of your lungs. There is no cure for COPD but there are good treatments.

Key messages:

- All smokers and ex-smokers over 40 years of age should take the Canadian Lung Health Test to find out if they are at risk for COPD.

- If you think you may be at risk for COPD, see your doctor and ask about getting spirometry, a simple breathing test that measures how much air you can forcefully move in and out of your lungs.

- The main symptoms of COPD are shortness of breath and having a hard time doing regular activities, such as walking.

- COPD is treatable. Early treatment can slow the decline in lung function and improve quality of life.

- Quitting smoking is one of the best ways to prevent COPD. The Canadian Lung Association says it's never too late to quit.

- It's important that people who have or who are at risk for COPD be informed about this serious lung disease. The Canadian Lung Association is here to help those who may be affected by COPD. Visit or call the COPD Helpline at 1-866-717-COPD (2673) for more information. In Quebec, call 1-888-POUMON-9

COPD Fast Facts

- COPD is Canada's fourth leading cause of death.1

- One out of every four people aged 35 and older are likely to develop COPD during their lifetime, according to a recent Canadian study published in the British medical journal, The Lancet.2 The findings suggest that people are at much greater risk of developing COPD than congestive heart failure, acute heart attack, and several common cancers.

- The average 35-year-old women is more than three times as likely to get COPD than breast cancer during her lifetime, and the average 35-year-old man is at more than three times greater risk of developing COPD than prostate cancer.3

- About 80 per cent of cases are caused by smoking.

- Other risk factors include long-term exposure to air pollution, chronic dust in the workplace, having repeated lung infections as a child, and a rare genetic condition called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.

- COPD is a major cause for hospital stays and emergency room visits across Canada.4

- Reducing flare-ups (exacerbations) of the disease can go a long way to reducing hospitalizations.5

1 O'Donnell D. E, Aaron S, Boubeau J et al Canadian Thoracic Society recommendations for management of COPD – 2007 update Can Resp J, 2007; 14(Suppl B) 5B-32B

2 Dr Andrea S Gershon et al., The Lancet, Volume 378, Issue 9795, Pages 991 - 996, 10 September 2011

3 Ibid.

4 Canadian Thoracic Society, The Human and Economic Burden of COPD: A leading cause of hospital admission in Canada

5 Ibid.

Contact Information

  • For national media interviews:
    Janis Hass
    Director of Marketing and Communications
    The Canadian Lung Association
    (613) 569-6411, ext. 225