November is COPD Awareness month and Intermountain Health wants to you to know the risk factors and how to get help if you have the disease. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs.

COPD is a is a common respiratory condition, that is preventable and treatable, in which patient has persistent respiratory symptoms due to structural damage to the bronchial tubes, or airways, and the air sacs in the lungs.

More than 15 million people have COPD in the United States. But an additional 12 million people have COPD and do not know it and undiagnosed. The CDC reports that more than 150,000 people die every year from COPD. It is the 4th leading cause of death in the US as well as the 4th leading cause of disability. Approximately 185,000 people in Nevada are diagnosed and suffer from COPD.

What are the risk factors?

  • Exposure to air pollution

  • Breathing secondhand smoke

  • Working with chemicals, dust and fumes

  • A genetic condition called Alpha-1 deficiency

  • A history of childhood respiratory infection

  • COPD is more common in women – about 56 percent of cases.

  • COPD includes chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and chronic obstructive asthma.

The symptoms for COPD can be some of the following: chronic cough, shortness of breath (especially while active), reoccurring respiratory illness, blueness of the lips or fingernail beds, fatigue, excessive mucus, and wheezing

What can people do now to avoid getting COPD?

The American Lung Association gives five steps to reduce your risk:

  • If you smoke, it is a smart and healthy choice to quit. Seek help from family and experts to learn how to quit. It is never too late.

  • If you don’t smoke, then don’t start.

  • Avoid secondhand smoke around you. This includes making your home smoke-free.

  • Be aware of the dangers with chemicals, dust and fumes at home and at work.

  • Work with your community to help fight for clean air.

“Roughly 80 percent of all COPD cases are attributed to smoking,” said Dr. Suresh Tawney, Pulmonary Physician, Intermountain Healthcare COPD Clinic. “The remaining are environmental factors or genetically from your family.”

Dr. Tawney tells people to give up smoking or never take up the habit. The damage to the bronchial tubes and air sacs usually caused by significant exposure to noxious particles, such as in smoking, or gases.

The Intermountain COPD Clinic that Dr. Tawney works at focuses currently on Medicare patients. The Intermountain Clinic uses a team to treat you at in the COPD Clinic. The team includes the physician, case manager, respiratory therapists, among others.

The COPD Clinic team helps with the following:

  • Medication management

  • Educate disease process

  • Signs and symptoms and how-to self-monitor and manage their chronic condition

  • Provide symptom management and acute symptom triage via direct access to clinic and/or remote patient monitoring

  • Work with help with self-care success

  • Social determinants of health

  • Transition of care coordination during and after hospitalization

For specialized primary care for seniors, choose Intermountain’s myGeneration Clinics.

  • We’re accepting new patients at more than 30 locations.

  • The Medicare annual enrollment period is a great time to evaluate your primary care provider team in addition to your insurance coverage to ensure that you have the best care for the year ahead.

  • Call us to find a primary care provider in your neighborhood at 725-373-2231.

To learn more about COPD, the COPD Clinic and Intermountain, visit

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