Until recently, COPD was ranked the fourth leading cause of death in this country and was expected to move up to become the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2020. This all changed last Thursday when the CDC released a report claiming that the disease has moved up 12 years early, and, as of 2008, is now the third leading cause of death in the United States. Why did this happen?
There is some speculation that the increase in mortality rates for COPD is due to a change in the way that COPD was classified in 2008. Before this, deaths resulting from pneumonia and other acute lower respiratory infections were coded as COPD/unspecified. Now, these types of deaths are all coded under a single classification -- chronic lower respiratory diseases, or CLRD, which includes chronic bronchitis, emphysema and bronchiectasis. In 2008, deaths from CLRD increased by 7.8 percent while deaths from stroke fell 3.8 percent.
While this is certainly not good news, according to the COPD Foundation, COPD is almost always preventable and almost always treatable and people who are high risk for the disease are strongly encouraged to get tested with a simple lung test called spirometry. As a result of this test, those who are experiencing symptoms of COPD can get diagnosed early and start COPD treatment before the disease becomes disabling.
To read more about this topic, visit the COPD Foundation press release.