What is COPD?

10 COPD Myths

The HealthCentral Editorial Team Jun 17, 2013 (updated Jul 31, 2014)
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COPD is always caused by smoking.
COPD is always caused by smoking.
Not true. Although cigarette smoking is a major cause of COPD, not everybody who has COPD was, or is, a smoker. Fact is, 85 percent of all people with COPD were or are smokers. Other factors that  contribute significantly to the development of this disease are breathing hazards in the environment – especially in the workplace – and heredity.
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You’re a smoker. What did you expect?
You’re a smoker. What did you expect?
So, if you smoked, or still smoke, you get COPD, right? Not necessarily. Research reveals that only about 20 percent of people who smoke eventually get COPD. But, don’t let those odds fool you. Cigarette smoking is bad for you, for everybody, no matter what.
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As soon as I quit smoking, my lungs will start to regenerate.
As soon as I quit smoking, my lungs will start to regenerate.
Wouldn’t that be nice? But, unfortunately, it doesn’t happen. Delicate lung tissue that has been destroyed will stay that way. If you smoke, make every effort to avoid further lung damage by quitting smoking, avoiding lung irritants and infections, and taking the best medications available to keep your lungs stable.
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Exercising helps build up my lungs.
Exercising helps build up my lungs.
Although lung damage itself cannot be reversed, you can have huge improvements in your ability to breathe better and stay active by exercising. There is definitely a right way and wrong way to exercise with COPD, and pulmonary rehab is the best place to learn. Respiratory professionals teach you how to breathe effectively while you exert, and also give you information on how to avoid infections and perform everyday tasks.
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Once I go on oxygen, that’s the beginning of the end.
Once I go on oxygen, that’s the beginning of the end.
I hear people say this all the time and it is not true! Using supplemental oxygen can actually help you live longer. On the other hand, struggling along with oxygen levels that are too low to adequately supply your heart, brain, other organs and muscles is going to wear your body out sooner, possibly causing a heart attack or stroke.
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The best thing is to do as little as possible.
The best thing is to do as little as possible.
So not true! When you have COPD, sitting in your chair and doing nothing is the worst thing you can do! Inactive muscles quickly become weak and use oxygen less efficiently. A supervised exercise program can help you feel much better and help you have a better quality of life.
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A diagnosis of COPD is pretty much a death sentence.
A diagnosis of COPD is pretty much a death sentence.
Not true at all! It is not unusual for a person to live for many years (20 years or more) with a diagnosis of COPD. With the right medications, exercise, nutrition – and a positive attitude, you have a good chance to live long enough to spoil your grandchildren!
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It’s gross to cough and to spit out your mucous.
It’s gross to cough and to spit out your mucous.
Well, it might seem that way, but as a person with COPD it is often a necessary part of your daily routine to clear your lungs of excess phlegm. If the pipes in your bathroom are clogged, will ignoring it do you any good? In addition to the benefit of clearing your lungs, monitoring the color of your mucous can help you catch an infection in its early stages.
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Wearing oxygen at home should be enough to help me when I go out.
Wearing oxygen at home should be enough to help me when I go out.
Your body cannot store oxygen. In fact, once your blood makes the trip from your heart and lungs to your muscles, organs and tissues, and back to your heart and lungs again, the oxygen is used up. It then becomes carbon dioxide, which is what you exhale. This entire trip through your body takes about seven minutes.
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I should be as thin as possible.
I should be as thin as possible.
Not at all. It is true that a person with COPD should not have a large belly because it can push up on the lungs and get in the way of breathing. However, it is perfectly all right for a person with COPD to weigh up to ten pounds over “ideal” body weight.