In 2011, 31,574 people were registered as having Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in Northern Ireland. The most common cause of COPD is smoking and to mark this year’s World COPD day, which takes place on Wednesday 16 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.
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.
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.
There is no cure for COPD. Stopping smoking is the single most effective way to reduce your risk of developing COPD and avoid any further damage to the lungs.
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 good news is that making changes to your lifestyle can reduce your risk of developing COPD. Stopping smoking reduces the risk of developing COPD and also slows down its progression. There is support available to help you quit and I would encourage everyone thinking about stopping smoking to log on to our Want 2 Stop website www.want2stop.info and order a ‘Quit Kit’ 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. ”
The Health Minister Edwin Poots said: “The impact of living with COPD can place a considerable strain on the lives of those suffering from the condition and their families. I understand that most smokers want to quit but it is not always easy to succeed and that several attempts are frequently necessary. I would therefore urge all smokers on world COPD day, to make that commitment to stop smoking. Professional help and support are readily available. There are almost 650 smoking cessation services provided all over Northern Ireland, mostly in community pharmacies, but also in GP surgeries, hospitals, community halls and schools.”
Contact the PHA Press Office on 028 9031 1611.
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. The ‘Quit Kit’ is available from the website www.want2stop.info