Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a deadly medical condition with under-estimated mortality and morbidity rates across the globe. It remains undiagnosed probably because it progresses gradually and shows signs at a very late stage. The National Commission on Macroeconomics and Health (NCMH) has identified India as one of the countries most affected by COPD.

The Commission identified about 17 million Indians suffering from COPD in 2006, and the numbers are expected to reach 22 million by 2016. According to NCMH estimates, COPD is more prevalent in the rural areas of India compared to the urban parts of the country, and the numbers are continuously on the increase.

Dr Pradyut Waghray, Director and Senior Consultant Pulmonologist, Kunal Institute Of Medical Specialities Private Limited says, “Men and women from rural parts of India are more prone to low-quality smoking and tobacco consumption. People from these parts of the country are also negligent towards their health and symptoms, and seek medical help only when the condition worsens and becomes uncontrollable.

That is why, it is important to understand the symptoms of the condition, and contact a physician as soon as you start developing wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and ongoing cough, among others.” Most COPD patients hale from low- and middle-income countries, with 90 per cent of the deaths in these countries being attributed to COPD.

According to a global survey, mortality rate due to COPD is the highest in India, and a few African countries. India has perhaps the highest percentage of COPD-related mortality, and the number is growing constantly. The age-standardised mortality rate is found to be around 65 per 100,000 for both males and females in India. This is around 20 per cent of the global total per year.

COPD is a serious condition that not only kills people, but also affects the overall quality of their lives. Poor quality of living on the brink of death is termed as DALYs or Disability Adjusted Life Years. “COPD largely affects the way people do their everyday activities, such as walking, climbing stairs, jogging, lifting things, and playing with kids, among others.

Besides quitting smoking and tobacco chewing, people should stay away from second-hand smoke as well, and avoid air pollutants at home and office. The damage is usually irreparable by the time people notice symptoms. That makes it more important to prevent its causes at the first hand,” says Dr Pradyut Waghray, Director and Senior Consultant Pulmonologist, Kunal Institute Of Medical Specialities Private Limited In 2011, COPD contributed Rs. 35,000 crore as economic burden, and today it is estimated to have reached Rs. 48,000 crore.

It is quite evident how COPD affects both the public health and the country’s economy. It’s high time we not only become aware but also raise awareness levels of others about preventing and managing COPD. And our lifestyle has a direct relation to it. Eat healthy, stay physically active and most importantly, stay away from tobacco smoke, both first and second hand. And if you are an active smoker already, quit it now, not just for your own good but also for the good of those you love.