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Little known lung disease killing Canadians: Study


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A new research has found that a large number of Canadians are likely to be diagnosed with a lesser-known incurable lung disease that leads to breathing troubles and subsequently cause heart failure, heart attacks, breast cancer in women or prostate cancer in men.

In what is being described as the first solid estimate of the lifetime risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Toronto scientists — using data from the entire province of Ontario — found that one in four women, and one in three men aged 35 and older, are at risk of developing the weakening lung condition by age 80.

The research holds smoking the major reason for COPD and also states that second hand smoking also adds to it. But age is also a risk factor. So is occupational exposure to dusts or fumes, a history of respiratory tract infections in childhood, exposure to second-hand smoke and — many are beginning to believe — asthma, especially poorly controlled asthma

Further in the research, the team found that the average 35-year-old woman is more than three times more likely to get COPD than breast cancer during her lifetime, while the average 35-year-old male faces more than three times the risk of being diagnosed with COPD than with prostate cancer.

For both male and female, the lifetime COPD risk was about double that of congestive heart failure and three to four times that of acute heart attack.

Known by other names such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, COPD slowly destroys the lungs. It causes destruction of the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs.

COPD starts as a lung disease, and initially people experience shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and spitting up mucus, and have so little energy from a lack of oxygen. Followed by that people lose weight; their bones thin. Many develop depression, anxiety or other psychiatric problems.

A total of 579,446 people were diagnosed with COPD over the study period.

COPD is the fourth-leading cause of death in Canada, after cancer, heart disease and stroke. The World Health Organization has estimated that, by 2030, COPD will be the third most common cause of death globally. It is the most common cause of hospitalizations due to chronic disease in Canada.

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