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18 November 2009 - World Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Day
2009.11.18
World Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Day is taken place on 18 November with an aim to expand understanding of COPD and advocate for better care for patients.
 
WHO estimates that there are 210 million COPD patients currently and predicts that COPD will become the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2030.
 
The prevalence of COPD in Hong Kong is not available at the moment but local research indicates that 9% of the elderly population aged 70 or above are suffering from COPD.  According to the statistics of Hospital Authority, 4% of the critical hospitalized patients and 5.8% of death were COPD cases in 1997.  In 2008, the hospitalized COPD inpatients reached 30,935 and their daily occupancy rate of medicine specialties ranged from 6% to 11% which was the third highest in total bed occupancy days among all specialties.  COPD is the fifth leading cause of death in Hong Kong.
 
Major symptoms of COPD are coughing, phlegm and shortness of breath but some COPD patients have no significant symptoms at all.  Therefore, many invisible COPD patients are not aware of their sickness in Hong Kong.
 
Risk Factors of COPD
Key risk factors for COPD are tobacco smoking, indoor and outdoor air pollution, and exposure to occupational dusts and chemicals.  In addition to lung problems, COPD patients are very likely to face Coronary Heart Disease, Osteoporosis, Depression and Diabetes.
 
Prevention of COPD : Quit Tobacco Smoking
The most effective prevention of COPD is quit smoking as 90% of the COPD patients are either current or former smokers.  Since cigarette smoke induces inflammation in the small airway and lung substance.  An excessive production of enzyme (protease) will stimulate mucus secretion and damage the airway walls as well as lung tissues.  Hence the local immune system will be seriously damaged.
 
Prolonged inhalation of toxic cigarette smoke in smokers will develop chronic bronchitis and emphysema.  The chance of developing COPD correlates with the daily cigarette consumption, duration of firsthand and secondhand smoking.  Quit smoking is an effective mean to prevent COPD.  The deterioration of lung functioning in smokers after cessation could be slowed down significantly hence safeguarding the health of smokers as well as their family members.
 
Sources :
World Health Organisation (http://www.who.int)
Hong Kong Lung Foundation (http://www.hklf.org)
Hospital Authority – Smart Patients (http://www21.ha.org.hk/smartpatient/en/home.html)
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