November is National COPD Awareness Month, and as the third leading cause of death in the United States – and the fourth worldwide – it’s the public health crisis that nobody is talking about. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a general term that is used to describe diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis, which develop over a long period of time. These diseases cause significant lung destruction and air trapping, and they are irreversible.

In Pennsylvania, more than 6% of adults have been diagnosed with COPD. That means that nearly 700,000 adults in Pennsylvania have been diagnosed and are living with COPD. However, the nature of the disease process causes it to be grossly underdiagnosed, and it is estimated that just as many people have undiagnosed COPD.

As November wraps up, take the steps to live better with COPD:

  1. Quit smoking. If you smoke, make an effort to quit. Quitting smoking will have the greatest impact on changing the natural course of the disease.
  2. Get tested. Pulmonary function testing, or spirometry, will identify airflow limitations and provide your doctor with useful information about your lung health. Many people with COPD attribute their worsening lung function to part of the natural aging process. Measuring lung functions will help determine if that is the case.
  3. Get your vaccinations. The flu shot and pneumonia vaccine are recommended for individuals with COPD.
  4. Take your medications and take them correctly. Take your respiratory medications as prescribed. Use your inhaler with a spacer and follow proper technique to ensure the best medication distribution in the lungs.


  1. COPD Foundation, 2018. COPD in the United States: How is your state doing? Retrieved from
  1. Global initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease, 2018. Global strategy for the diagnosis, management, and prevention of chronic lung disease. Retrieved from