Early action is key to beating chronic killer

WHAT kills more people in the 12 months after a severe episode than people who suffered from a heart attack?

The answer is COPD - and if you have no idea what that is, you are not alone.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an umbrella term for emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic asthmatic conditions that aren't fully reversible.

It is the second leading cause of preventable hospital admissions in Australia yet it is a condition many choose to ignore.

Often until it is too late.

Lung Foundation Australia's General Practice Advisory Group chair, Dr Kerry Hancock, said failure to recognise worsening COPD symptoms led to delays in patients getting treatment.

"Early recognition of worsening symptoms and early initiation of treatment is one of the best ways for a patient to stay well and out of hospital," Dr Hancock said.

"This is especially so during the cold, winter months when symptoms can be the most severe."

The Sunshine Coast is one of six locations in Australia selected by Lung Foundation Australia to pilot a new "Have the CHAT" initiative to help patients with this lung disease.

The aim is to encourage conversations between COPD patients, their carers and GPs to understand the symptoms and to stress the importance of getting to a doctor quickly.

"Intervention is worthwhile early, just like you would do with a stroke or heart attack," Dr Hancock said.

"A flare-up of COPD is just as significant but many wait until they end up in hospital."

The CHAT acronym highlights the common symptoms associated with COPD exacerbation - Coughing more than usual, Harder to breathe, Any change in sputum coloured and Tiredness.

Doctors across the Coast have been offered special tools to help manage and raise awareness of COPD exacerbations.

Sunshine Coast community organisations and groups like bowling clubs will also be displaying posers and flyers to raise awareness.

The campaign will run until September 30.

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