Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer

COPD Myths vs. Facts

When it comes to health information, there is a lot of misinformation. This is especially true if you seek out your answers on the Web or from other people. This post will take a look at the facts around a number of myths about COPD. In many cases, the outlook for COPD is more positive than you may have been led to believe.

Much of the information you read or hear about health topics, including COPD, is not backed by research. You may hear the same “nuggets of wisdom” over and over. Information spreads quick and wide by word-of-mouth, whether in person or over the internet. That doesn’t mean it’s true though. It’s smart to get your facts straight.

1. If You Smoke, You Deserve to Get COPD

Not true. First of all, not all people who develop COPD have a smoking history or were exposed to secondhand smoke. Yes, smoking is the biggest risk factor for COPD, but it is not the only one. There is a small subset of people who actually have COPD because of a genetic factor. Plus, there are other environmental factors that put people at risk for COPD.

Keep in mind, also that most smokers do not develop COPD. Smoking is a risk factor, not a guarantee of future illness.

Finally, no one deservthe es to get any disease, no matter what their lifestyle. And disease is not retribution. Exercise compassion for others you know who have COPD and stop with the guilt if you’re the smoker who developed COPD.

2. COPD Can’t Be Effectively Treated

Again, this is not true. What is true is that COPD is a chronic respiratory illness for which there is no cure. And it will progress over time, but that progression can take years. Plus treatment can greatly slow the progression.

The key to effective treatment of COPD is early detection. I wish my father had accepted that. Instead, he tried to hide his diagnosis from everyone and never sought any treatment. He died at 69, years before he needed to.

The following treatments can help people with COPD live successfully and well with their disease for many years:1

3. Only Old People Get COPD

Once again, not true. It is a fact that the majority of people who are diagnosed with COPD are age 40 or older.2 Partly, this is because there are normal changes in lung function as we age that put us more at risk for COPD. But younger people with the right risk factors can also develop COPD. People with the alpha-1-antitrypsin genetic deficiency mentioned above are usually younger when diagnosed.

4. Stopping Smoking Will Cure COPD

Not true, unfortunately. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the solution were this simple? So, quitting smoking won’t cure or completely reverse the lung damage from COPD. However, when you stop smoking, you do stop further damage, slow the progression of the disease and improve your quality of life. It’s worth it, so get help to quit if you need to.

5. COPD Is a Man’s Disease

No longer true. At one point in time, COPD was much more common in men than it was in women. This may have been related to the fact that more men smoked than women did. However, as I reported in my article, Women and COPD: How Is It Different?, over the past 50 years, these statistics have changed — greatly.

  • The number of women dying from COPD has increased by nearly 400%, while in men it only increased by about 27%
  • In 2000, more women died from COPD than men
  • At least 7 million women in the U.S. have COPD
  • People under the age of 65 with COPD are more likely to be female

Because this rise in COPD among women is still not widely recognized, women tend to go longer before being diagnosed and treated.

6. COPD Is an Automatic Death Sentence

This is also not completely true. Yes, it’s a fact that there’s a good chance you will eventually perish from this disease, but that could be years in the making. Perhaps even decades. There is absolutely no reason to give up once you get a diagnosis of COPD. Once you’ve had time to absorb the news and accept it, there are things that can alter the course of your disease.

First of all, quit smoking if you’re still smoking. That’s the single best thing you can do for your future survival. Second, learn all you can about your disease. Equip yourself with knowledge.

Thirdly, partner with your health care team to figure out the best plan of treatment for you. There are a number of treatment approaches, including medication, pulmonary rehabilitation, supplemental oxygen and so on.

And finally, implement lifestyle changes that will help you feel healthier overall. Here is an overview of a healthy lifestyle:

  • Eat healthy & drink plenty of water
  • Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep at night if you can, or supplement with naps if necessary
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Stay as active as you can
  • Manage your stress
  • Don’t isolate yourself; embrace social support

In Summary

You’ll manage your COPD much better when you surround yourself with facts, rather than unproven myths. Keep a positive outlook and do all you can to preserve your quality of life.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. How Serious Is COPD. American Lung Association. Published March 13, 2018. Accessed November 16, 2018.
  2. COPD. Mayo Clinic. Published August 11, 2017. Accessed November 16, 2018.