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Chronic lung disease affects many Oklahomans

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a serious lung disease that affects many Oklahomans. In a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8 percent of Oklahomans reported their doctors had told them they had COPD.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: January 28, 2013

About a year ago, Anita Smith gave up.

Losing weight is difficult enough, but when you're 63 and suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, it can feel impossible.

Smith was frustrated and didn't know what to do.

“And then I realized I have two wonderful boys, and I have nine grandkids and a great-grandchild, so I can't really give up,” Smith said. “They're my saving grace. They really are.”

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, commonly referred to as COPD, is a serious lung disease which makes it hard to breathe, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. It's also known as emphysema or chronic bronchitis.

The disease is a leading cause of death and disability in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

COPD is a growing problem in Oklahoma and a major cause of chronic lower respiratory disease deaths, according to the state Health Department.

In a recent national survey, Oklahoma tied for fourth with West Virginia in the number of residents who reported a doctor had told them they had COPD.

Eight percent of Oklahomans surveyed said they had COPD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only Kentucky, Alabama and Tennessee reported higher rates.

Leading cause

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD, and secondhand smoke is associated with a 10 percent to 43 percent increase in risk in adults, according to the state Health Department.

For several years, Smith worked in casinos, which allow smoking indoors, and in movie theaters before smoking was banned. Smith isn't and hasn't ever been a smoker, she said.

She was diagnosed with COPD in 2011 after having open-heart surgery. She also suffers from sleep apnea.

Smith hasn't worked since her heart surgery but stays as busy as she can.

She lives on a 20-acre farm with her husband, some cattle, a few chickens and her cream-colored Labrador named Bandit.

“He has helped me get out of a lot of binds,” Smith said. “If I get into trouble and am in another room, he'll start growling at my husband, and he'll know it's time to come check on me.”

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a term referring to two lung diseases, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, that are characterized by obstruction to airflow that interferes with normal breathing. Both of these conditions frequently coexist, hence physicians prefer the term COPD. It does not include other obstructive diseases such as asthma.


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