By Evie Andreou
THE HEALTH minister Philippos Patsalis urged smokers that it was never too late to quit the habit on Monday as he launched the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) awareness week.
COPD, which is the third largest cause of death after heart failures and strokes in the world, affects 90 per cent of smokers, and is a lung disease that may progressively lead to death.
“According to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) data, one in 10 adults over the age of 40 may suffer from the disease, while it is estimated that annually 3,000,000 people die worldwide from COPD,” Patsalis said.
Apart from smoking, the disease’s main risk factors are indoor air pollution (such as biomass fuel used for cooking and heating), outdoor air pollution, occupational dusts and chemicals (vapours, irritants, and fumes).
“In Cyprus 4.9 per cent of the population suffer from COPD, but what is noteworthy is the fact that 51.7 per cent of these people did not know they had the disease when they were examined during a research study of the General Nicosia Hospital’s pneumonology clinic in 2008,” Patsalis said.
According to WHO, it is a usual, preventable disease and the most common symptoms of COPD are breathlessness, excessive sputum production, and a chronic cough.
“The impact of the disease is huge both socially and financially. In the EU alone direct costs of the disease amount to €38.6bn,” said the head of the Cyprus pneumonology society Dr Tonia Adamidi.
She said that there was a very simple test that can be taken to show breathing ability and she urged smokers over the age of 40 to take the test.
Patsalis said that since 2010, patients with COPD could seek treatment at the rehabilitation unit of the pneumonology clinic at the Nicosia General Hospital that offers a programme of holistic care to manage the disease.
The head of the association of friends of pneumonology patients, Thekla Kadi said that their aim was to raise awareness on chronic pulmonary diseases that put a strain not only on patients but also their families and that the association needed as much support to be able to continue their work.
She said that some COPD patients are forced to reduce their working hours since it can be quite strenuous for them and in the case of advanced COPD, they are taken care of by their families, which causes both financial and other psycho-social problems.
Patsalis reiterated the importance of a smoking-free life and said that the health ministry would soon promote a new anti-smoking law that will be harmonised with the EU’s 2014 directive on smoking.
On Wednesday, which is world COPD day, the public will have the opportunity to learn about the disease at the Mall of Nicosia and at My Mall in Limassol from 10am until 18pm by doctors and psychologists.
For more information on how can you help the association of friends of pneumonology patients call 99 750 165, 99 750 386.