Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease risk higher in rural and poor areas

An individual living in a poor or rural community has almost a 12 percent chance of having chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, compared to the national average, which is slightly higher than 7 percent, according to a study by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Roberta Alexander writes for Healthline.

COPD is one of the top causes of death in the U.S., said Sarah Raju, the study's lead author. The study found that living in the South or a rural area or in an area with community poverty were associated with COPD prevalence, but community poverty became insignificant when individual income was factored in.

The survey included 87,701 participants all older than 40. Some of the patients had never been formally diagnosed with the illness but had emphysema, bronchitis or asthma. COPD is a general term for emphysema—the enlargement of air sacs—and chronic bronchitis—the narrowing of the air tubes, said Linda Nici, the chief of the pulmonary/critical care section at the Providence Veterans Administration Medical Center in Rhode Island.

One effective way to avoid contracting COPD is not to smoke or to quit smoking. This is especially important in adolescence. "Researchers found an associated between biomass fuels and COPD in the South" and "suggest further research to understand the potential contribution of occupational exposure, fuel sources and indoor air pollutants to COP prevalence in poor, rural areas," Alexander writes.

The scientific evidence isn't yet available, but it appears that burning biomass contributes to disease. "It's probably better to use environmentally friendly fuels," Raju said. (Read more)

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