Says the fourth leading cause of death in the United States can be prevented and managed

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (Nov. 10, 2010) – As the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) epidemic continues to rise, most people are unaware that 90 percent of new COPD cases are preventable. Although COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and has no cure, early diagnosis, proper treatment and active lifestyle management saves lives. 

COPD is a lung disease that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema making it difficult to breathe over time. Obstruction in COPD means that the flow of air in and out of the lungs is less than it should be, and as a result, less oxygen gets into the body tissues making it more difficult to get rid of carbon dioxide, a waste gas.  As the disease progresses, it is more difficult for patients to remain active hindering the quality of their lives and many become isolated.

“The alarming aspect of COPD is that many people are unaware that they even have it, and 50 percent of cases go undiagnosed,” said Paul Scalise, M.D., F.C.C.P., Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs, Hospital for Special Care. “COPD victims subconsciously become accustomed to a limited, lethargic lifestyle caused by shortness of breath, and they often make excuses for why their body is becoming sensitive to everyday activities like climbing stairs or walking to their car in the parking lot.”

According to the American Lung Association, more than 13 million people in the U.S. are known to have COPD, and up to 24 million may have the disease without knowing it. The four signs of COPD are:

1.)History of smoking

2.)Shortness of breath


4.)Low tolerance to exercise

HSC advises those who may have symptoms of COPD to contact their primary care physicians. From there, a COPD patient may be referred to a specialist, but HSC recommends that patients seek a comprehensive, accredited pulmonary rehabilitation program to ensure the best treatment.

Additionally, to prevent life-threatening acute episodes that are complicated by pneumonia and the flu, Scalise says that COPD must be recognized early and properly managed throughout. “Early intervention makes for less hospital visits and greater rehabilitation success,” he said. 

“Further, because there are no instant surgical fixes for COPD as with other conditions such as heart disease, treatment is not just medical; support groups and exercise programs are vital to rehabilitation,” Scalise commented.  “It’s up to patients to recognize and manage the disease, but we can give them the tools to do so.”

To assist people with COPD, HSC offers its Fit for Life Exercise Pulmonary Group (FLEX) and Pulmonary Exercise Program (PEP) backed by a multidisciplinary medical team, which is crucial to successful rehabilitation. Once patients undergo the active rehabilitation program, they are advised to participate in HSC’s FLEX and PEP programs, which are essential to maintain what was gained during active rehabilitation with the ultimate goal of completing treatment.

As one of the world’s largest providers of comprehensive respiratory care services, HSC is recognized as a global leader in providing a full spectrum of post-acute pulmonary care. HSC’s success rate in restoring the ability to breathe independently consistently exceeds the national average, and its Outpatient Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program is a multidisciplinary service that helps individuals with pulmonary disease, such as COPD, reach his or her maximum level of independence and function at home and in the community. HSC works with individuals with COPD to increase functional ability, decrease shortness of breath and improve an overall understanding of the respiratory process and lung health. Through exercise and education, HSC pulmonary programs give individuals the skills and support needed to live a content and productive life. For more information on COPD and HSC’s specialized pulmonary services, please visit


About Hospital for Special Care:

As the only long-term acute-care hospital in the nation serving adults and children, located in New Britain and Hartford, Hospital for Special Care is nationally recognized for advanced care and rehabilitation in the highly specialized areas of pulmonary care, acquired-brain injury, medically-complex pediatrics, neuromuscular care and spinal cord injury. Hospital for Special Care operates inpatient and outpatient facilities serving Southern New England on a not-for-profit basis.