In 2012, 32,973 people were registered as having Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in Northern Ireland. The most common cause of COPD is smoking, so to mark this year’s World COPD day, which takes place today (Wednesday 14 November), the Public Health Agency (PHA) is encouraging all smokers to make a decision to stop smoking today and reduce their risk of developing the disease – it’s never too late to quit!
Gerry Bleakney, Head of Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement, PHA, said: “Smoking causes the lining of the airways to become inflamed and damaged and is the biggest cause of COPD. The risk of developing COPD increases the more an individual smokes and the longer they smoke.”
The most common symptoms of COPD are breathlessness, wheezing, abnormal sputum (a mix of saliva and mucus in the airway), and a chronic cough often mistaken for a ‘smokers’ cough’. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending upon how advanced the disease is. In advanced cases, daily activities, such as walking up a short flight of stairs, can become very difficult.
It is vital that anyone who thinks that they may have symptoms of COPD sees their GP immediately, as early diagnosis and being aware of the signs are crucial to saving lives.
Gerry continued: “There is no cure for COPD. Stopping smoking is the single most effective way to reduce your risk of developing the disease and avoid any further damage to the lungs.
"We know that stopping smoking is not easy and different approaches will work for different people. While some might be able to do it with very little support, others find that planning ahead and making use of the Stop Smoking Support Services that are available can really help them make the decision permanent. Last year 20,308 people successfully stopped smoking using the free Stop Smoking Services based in pharmacies, GP practices and community venues. Attending a specialist service and using appropriate drug treatment (if appropriate) increases the chance of successfully stopping fourfold.
“The free stop smoking Quit Kit is a great tool to help people who are thinking about planning their quit attempt, to get yours log on to the PHAs Want 2 Stop website www.want2stop.info and order it today free of charge. Alternatively contact the Smokers’ Helpline on 0808 812 8008 for help on planning to stop smoking or to find out where your nearest Stop Smoking Service is.”
Contact PHA Communications on (028) 9055 3663.
Notes to the editor
1. For further information on stop smoking services available in localities across Northern Ireland, contact the Smokers’ Helpline on 0808 812 8008 or go to www.want2stop.info
2. COPD refers to a group of diseases which includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and in some cases asthma. With COPD, the airways in the lungs become damaged, causing them to become narrower, therefore restricting airflow and thus making it harder to breathe.