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about lung disease COPD

Updated: Apr 1, 2023

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the name for a group of lung diseases where people have difficulty breathing because their airways have been narrowed. It includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It is estimated that 1.6 million Canadians live with it – yet it is believed that almost as many have COPD and don’t know it. The Lung Health Foundation is committed to supporting those affected by this progressive but treatable disease to live their best life. Here you can find the ‘need to know’ info on COPD, including what causes flare-ups, treatment and management. Have questions about COPD? Our Lung Health Line is a free, confidential service offered between 8:30 am – 4:30 pm Monday to Friday. To speak with a Certified Respiratory Educator (a healthcare professional with special training in COPD) call 1-888-344-LUNG (5864) or email at After hours, you can leave a message and we will return your call. Our educators will give you advice that will help you breathe your best!

People with COPD usually have one or more of these symptoms:

  • a cough that lasts a long time (3+ months)

  • a cough with mucus

  • feeling short of breath while doing everyday activities, such as climbing a flight of stairs or carrying groceries

  • lung infections (colds and the flu) that may last longer than usual

  • wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe)

  • feeling tired

  • losing weight (without trying to)

Please note that feeling short of breath is not a normal sign of aging. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are short of breath when doing everyday activities like walking up the stairs. Canadian Lung Health Test Smokers and former smokers are at a higher risk of developing COPD. If you are over 40 and smoke or used to smoke, take this quick test to screen for symptoms of COPD:

  • Do you cough regularly?

  • Do you cough up phlegm regularly?

  • Do even simple chores make you short of breath?

  • Do you wheeze when you exert yourself (exercise, go upstairs?)

  • Do you get many colds and do your colds usually last longer than your friends’ colds?

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, see your healthcare provider to be assessed for COPD. Your healthcare provider may send you for a lung function test called “spirometry”.

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