If you’re coughing or breathless, ‘It’s not too late’

Published: Mon 18 Nov 2013 03:34 PM
Media Statement
The Asthma Foundation
18 November 2013
World COPD Day is November 20
If you’re coughing or breathless, ‘It’s not too late’ to stop smoking and see your GP.
With World COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) Day approaching on 20 November, the Asthma Foundation is urging smokers and ex-smokers who have breathing difficulties to stop smoking and talk to their GP or contact the nearest asthma society.
World COPD Day is organised by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD). The theme of ‘It’s not too late’ emphasises actions people can take to improve their respiratory health, at any stage before or after a COPD diagnosis. Dr Kyle Perrin, medical advisor for the Asthma Foundation says “We know that 80% of people with COPD are current or ex-smokers, so we have two messages - it’s not too late to give up smoking, and it’s not too late to get help.”
“COPD often goes undiagnosed in the early stages. People ignore shortness of breath, or just stop doing activities that make them breathless. Often we are not able to diagnose COPD until symptoms have become severe,” said Dr Perrin. “Once COPD has developed, there is no cure. You can, however, prevent further deterioration by stopping smoking – ‘it’s not too late’ to make a change for better health. If people continue smoking, their lungs will get worse and the disease can be fatal.”
A visit to your doctor for a simple breathing test called spirometry can show whether you have developed COPD. “We estimate that 1 in 7 New Zealanders aged 45 and over has COPD – more than 200,000 people,” said Dr Perrin.
COPD is on the rise in New Zealand and internationally. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COPD afflicts over 50 million people worldwide and causes nearly 3 million deaths every year. Deaths from COPD are projected to increase by more than 30 percent in the next 10 years unless there are interventions to cut risks, particularly preventing exposure to tobacco smoke.
In 2011 in New Zealand COPD was responsible for an estimated 12,000 hospital admissions and each person admitted spent an average of five days in hospital. The main action we can take to reduce the burden of COPD in New Zealand is to get people to stop smoking.
For help to give up smoking contact Quitline on 0800 778 778, or go online
The Foundation urges people with breathing symptoms or coughing to visit their doctor to get tested for COPD because early detection and management can slow the progression of the disease and improve quality of life. You can also contact your local asthma society or trust.
Visit our website to see what events are happening in each region to support World COPD Day:
COPD facts and figures:
• COPD has a substantial impact on the health of New Zealanders. Although often undiagnosed, it affects an estimated 15 percent of the adult population over the age of 45 years (at least 200,000 New Zealanders).
• More than 85 percent of the burden of COPD arises from tobacco smoking, with contributions from cannabis use and dust exposure in the workplace.
• COPD is the fourth leading cause of death after cancer, heart disease and stroke.
• COPD is an irreversible disease but is almost entirely preventable by avoiding exposure to tobacco smoke. Over 15 percent of all smokers are likely to become affected.
• COPD Is estimated to cost up to $192 million in direct health care costs each year.
• In 2011 COPD was responsible for an estimated 12,000 hospital admissions and over 50,000 bed days.
• COPD accounts for about 200,000 GP visits and more than 453,300 prescribed medications.
The Burden of COPD in New Zealand summary report:
About the Asthma Foundation
The Asthma Foundation is New Zealand’s sector authority on asthma, COPD and other respiratory illnesses.
We advocate to government and raise awareness of respiratory illnesses, fund research for better treatments and educate on best practice. We provide resources on our website and support our affiliated asthma societies and trusts in providing education, support and advice.
For more information, visit the Asthma Foundation’s website at or go to

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