The latest in our video series where experts from the University of Chicago Medical Center answer frequently asked questions about popular medical topics. To suggest a topic or a question, please contact the editors.
If you look at a list of the leading causes of death in the United States, many of the top finishers are familiar ailments such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes. But one high-ranking cause may be a surprise to non-clinicians – respiratory diseases, which currently come in at #4 on this morbid Top 10 list. Now commonly grouped together as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), respiratory conditions such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis are on the rise as a killer in the U.S. and elsewhere, even as deaths from cardiovascular disease and cancer fall. By the start of the next decade, experts predict that COPD will climb even higher on the list, passing stroke to become the third most-common cause of American deaths.
Despite these worrisome numbers, public awareness of COPD remains low. A recent NIH survey found that only 68 percent of adults were aware of the disease, while only 44 percent knew that it was a treatable condition. According to NIH statistics, 12 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD, and an additional 12 million may have the disease but remain undiagnosed. So I chatted with Dr. Jerry Krishnan, associate professor of pulmonary medicine at the University of Chicago Medical Center and director of the Asthma and COPD Center, dedicated to the treatment and research of these increasingly common respiratory diseases. Krishnan recently was awarded a grant of over $7 million as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to direct a multi-center effort known as CONCERT, which will compare the effectiveness of various treatments for COPD.
In the below videos, Krishnan covers the basics of COPD: what causes the disease, what symptoms characterize its potential presence, and what treatments are currently available for those diagnosed with the disorder. Krishnan points out that the rising rates of COPD are largely a legacy of America’s smoking habits – around 80% of COPD cases are due to smoking, according to the NIH – and so a third video offers Krishnan’s discussion of smoking cessation techniques that can help people kick cigarettes. With a salient message for anyone that’s chosen to stop smoking as their New Year’s resolution, Krishnan said that quitting has proven benefits even in people who have smoked for years or even decades.
“Smoking cessation is not only important to prevent new disease from developing, but also its important in preserving your health after you’ve developed a disease related to smoking,” Krishnan said. “It’s never too late to stop.”