Expert Answers: COPD Awareness Month Series

Expert Answers: Myths and Misconceptions

Even though COPD is prevalent, there are still many myths and misconceptions that people mistakenly believe. So we asked our panel of experts, What do you think is the most common myth or misconception about COPD? Check out what they had to say and add your comments below! And don’t forget to spread the word this month by changing your avatar to raise awareness, or simply by sharing articles that educate others about COPD!

Response from Leon
A review of the literature reveals many myths and misconceptions related to COPD which are not supported by scientific research. Some common misconceptions can be found right here on our own website, COPD.net: copd.net/basics/myths-and-misconceptions, where seven myths are described.

Here are four more myths:

  • Myth: “COPD is a disease of old age.” It is true that most people are diagnosed with COPD in their 50’s or 60’s. However, a genetic form of COPD (alpha1 antitrypsin deficiency) can result in the diagnosis being made for those people affected in their 30’s and 40’s.
  • Myth: “People with COPD should not exercise.” Many people with COPD are afraid to exercise for fear it is unsafe and will make them short of breath. There is no question that it is difficult to exercise when you have COPD but that does not mean you should not exercise! A properly supervised exercise program can help your body utilize oxygen more efficiently and improve your overall quality of life. Exercise should become an integral part of your comprehensive treatment plan.
  • Myth: “COPD is the same as asthma.” Not so! Although COPD and asthma share similar symptomatic characterisitics, they are two distinctly different diseases. More specifically, they differ in the onset of the disease, frequency of symptoms and reversibility of airway obstruction.
  • Myth: “A healthy diet does little to improve COPD.” It’s not readily appreciated that the foods you eat and your weight are directly related to your energy level. Dyspnea, or shortness of breath and difficulty breathing, is one of the most frightening characteristics of COPD. When this interferes with completing a meal, it can contribute towards weight loss and malnutrition. A healthy diet not only gives you the energy you need to breathe, but it helps prevent COPD exacerbation and malnutrition, two common complications of COPD. Following a healthy COPD diet, therefore plays a critical role in the treatment of the disease.

Response from Lyn
One of the most common myths we hear when someone has been diagnosed is, “I’ll never lead a normal life now”. NOT TRUE! Having COPD will certainly call for some adjustments in lifestyle as time goes on, but a person can and will continue to live a full and meaningful life. I cannot stress enough the importance of starting a treatment regimen as soon as your physician suggests it and sticking closely to it. Getting enough rest, eating well, and exercising moderately will all contribute to your overall wellbeing.

Response from Tonya
The most common misconception is that life is over once there is a diagnosis. Actually, with a diagnosis, now is the time to live every moment to the fullest. COPD progresses slowly, but along the way breathing becomes increasingly harder. This leaves the COPD patient feeling less and less able to do the things that they normally would do. Don’t waste one moment, no matter what stage you are in.

Do you know of any myths or misconceptions you’d like to share? Please do so in the comments!

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