Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an underdiagnosed lung disease characterized by persistent inflammation and airflow obstruction. COPD is preventable and treatable, but not fully reversible (Rabe 2007; GOLD 2011; Bednarek 2008; CDC 2011; NIH MedlinePlus 2012; Kardos 2006; American Thoracic Society 2004).
COPD is the fourth-leading cause of death in most industrialized countries and is predicted to become third by 2020 (Cosio 2009). This increase is due primarily to a global epidemic of tobacco smoking, a leading risk factor for COPD (WHO 2008).
COPD encompasses two main conditions (GOLD 2011; NIH NHLBI 2010, Fischer 2011):
- Emphysema, which damages and enlarges the alveoli - the tiny sacs where oxygen transfer takes place in the lungs; and
- Chronic bronchitis, in which a chronic cough accompanies persistent inflammation of the airways.
The goal of COPD treatment is to slow or prevent disease progression, improve exercise tolerance, improve health status, prevent and treat exacerbations, and reduce mortality. Smoking cessation is the most crucial step to prevent COPD or delay its progression (GOLD 2011; NIH-NHLBI 2006).
Conventional therapies such as inhaled corticosteroids, inhaled anticholinergics, and beta2-agonists are helpful in treating COPD (Ferri 2012). However, inhaled corticosteroids may increase the risk of pneumonia (Spencer 2011) and osteoporosis (Leib 2011), and inhaled anticholinergics may increase the risk of death (Singh 2011).
After reading this protocol, you will understand what causes COPD, how therapy can relieve symptoms, and how lifestyle changes can reduce exacerbations. You will also learn about novel therapies and natural compounds that can target some key mechanisms that drive COPD progression, including inflammation and oxidative stress.