April 2004
Chronic Obstructive
Pulmonary Disease
(CORD) is the
fourth leading
cause of death in
the United States.

More than two
million adults age
65 and older have
asthma, and in 2001
more than 860,000
older adults
suffered an asthma
                      Age   Healthier
                       Breathe   Easier
                       First in a Series of Information for Older Adults and Family Caregivers
       Did you know that Chronic
       Obstructive Pulmonary
       Disease (COPD) is the
       fourth leading cause of
death in the United States, claiming
approximately 119,000 lives each
year?1 In 2000, COPD caused 726,000
hospitalizations and 1.5 million
hospital emergency room visits.1
COPD includes chronic bronchitis
and emphysema - lung diseases
which frequently coexist and are
characterized by obstruction to air
flow, making it difficult to breathe.
Smokers are particularly at risk of
developing COPD, however, it also
been linked to workplace exposure
to dust and fumes. Symptoms
include chronic cough, increased
mucus production, chest tightness,
shortness of breath and difficulty

Economic Impact of

COPD and Asthma

The annual cost for treatment for
all age groups is approximately $32
billion for COPD and $14 billion for
asthma. Most of this cost is for
medical treatment of acute attacks
when individuals struggle to
breathe.1 COPD is particularly
common among older adults and
significantly compromises their
quality of life. As baby boomers
age, the number of older adults
affected by COPD and asthma is
expected to grow significantly.
Hazards, Triggers for
COPD and Asthma

Outdoor Air
Exposure to air pollution can pose a
significant risk to older adults,
especially those with lung disease.
Particle pollution may aggravate
lung diseases including COPD and
asthma and may be responsible for
serious health effects including
hospitalization or premature death.
Ozone also may aggravate lung
diseases and may result in
emergency room and hospital

Indoor Air
Pollutants that exist within homes
and buildings also may be harmful
to persons with COPD or asthma.
Many older persons spend up to 90
percent of their time indoors, often
at home. Common  indoor
environmental hazards that may
trigger COPD and asthma attacks
include tobacco smoke (direct and
second-hand smoke), animal dander,
dust mites and cockroaches, mold,
dust and pollen. Other sources of
indoor air pollution that may trigger
a COPD or asthma attack include
combustion products of oil, gas,
kerosene, and coal and building
materials and furnishings made  of
pressed wood products. Pesticides,
household cleaning products, and

                  Pollutants that exist within homes and buildings also may
                  be harmful to persons with CORD or asthma.
What you can do to  control

and reduce exposure to

environmental hazards

If you or your loved one experience symptoms of
COPD or asthma, consult a doctor and follow a
management plan outlined by your health care
provider. The key to management of  these diseases
is through preventive measures and reduced
exposure to environmental hazards. Take steps to
prevent, control and reduce the frequency of
symptoms to allow you or your loved  one to breathe

  0 Avoid tobacco smoke

  0 Avoid smoke from wood-burning stoves

  0 Reduce mold, dust mites and
   cockroaches in your home

  0 Keep pets out of sleeping areas

  0 Check furnace and heating  units

  0 Fix water leaks promptly

  0 Check the Air Quality Index (AQI)

Reduce outdoor activity as much as possible on poor
air quality days. The AQI reports how clean the air is
and whether it will affect your health. If you have
access to the Internet, you can learn more about
the AQI by visiting www.epa.gov/airnow  If you do
not have access to a computer or the internet, you
can learn more about the daily AQI through
newspaper, television and radio weather reports.
continued from page 1.

substances with irritating odors also
may exacerbate these diseases.

Learn  more about

EPA's Aging Initiative

The Aging Initiative is working to
protect the environmental health of
older adults through the
coordination of research,
prevention strategies and public
education. For more information
about the Aging Initiative, visit

A poster entitled "Age Healthier
Breathe Easier" on COPD, asthma
and older adults is also available on
the website to download.

1. National Institute on Heart, Lung and
Blood, NIH, U.S. DHHS, Mortality and
Morbidity Chartbook 2002 on
Cardiovascular, Lung and Blood Diseases

2. National Center for Health Statistics,
Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, U.S. DHHS, Summary Health
Statistics for U.S. Adults, National
Health Interview Survey, 2001. (2.87
million adults age 65 and older have
received a diagnosis of asthma or
emphysema in their lifetime)

Publication Number