American Veterans with COPD: Pulmonary Rehab

Posted on: May 25, 2016

The largest population of people with COPD is American veterans, who suffer from higher rates of lung function decline, COPD progression, deterioration in health status, increased risk of hospitalization and death.  Dire statistics.  COPD is a common, preventable and treatable disease.  It is under-recognized, under-diagnosed and under-treated; this can be reversed with pulmonary rehabilitation.

by Harlan Weinberg, MD, Medical Director of Pulmonary Rehabilitation at Northern Westchester Hospital

Part 1 in a 2-Part Series

American veterans have a higher incidence of:

  • smoking-related chronic lung disease or COPD
  • deployment-related lung disease from secondary inhalation exposure
  • symptoms of shortness of breath
  • reduced exercise capacity

Intervention with pulmonary rehabilitation can reverse this trend.

American Veterans and COPD

Pulmonary Rehab for Vets

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, has disproportionately impacted American veterans. U.S. veterans are at a higher risk to develop COPD than the general population. Pulmonary rehabilitation can effectively treat American vets with COPD. Our Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program is uniquely designed to meet the needs of our veterans, who suffer from chronic respiratory disease.

COPD affects approximately 15% of all VA healthcare patients.  Related medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, skeletal muscle dysfunction & loss of muscle mass, depression, GERD, diabetes, lung cancer, fatigue/inactivity…all amplify the disability associated with COPD.  Absence of pulmonary rehabilitation intervention, COPD creates a tremendous medical burden for veterans, resulting in higher use of respiratory-related healthcare, namely:

  • increased office visits
  • increased Emergency Department visits
  • increased hospitalizations

COPD is a common, preventable and treatable disease

COPD is a complex disease that can be alleviated by the diligent care of a team medical specialists.  COPD is a common, preventable and treatable disease.  It is under-recognized, under-diagnosed and under-treated; this must be reversed.  Pulmonary rehabilitation is a well-established treatment for its use in COPD.  The potential benefits from pulmonary rehabilitation may include:

  • improvement of shortness of breath
  • improved exercise capacity
  • lessening of fatigue and inactivity
  • improved quality of life

Improving quality of life for American Veterans

The focus on pulmonary rehabilitation is to make the patient more independent and functional, more empowered regarding managing their respiratory illness, better informed on use of medications, and equipped to use an action plan in the event of worsening symptoms.

Access to our pulmonary rehab program is simple.  Request a referral from your Internal Medicine or Pulmonary Disease physician for Pulmonary Rehabilitation.  Visit www.nwhRehab.org or call our direct phone line at 914-458-8700, Ext. 5, for additional information.  Remember that breathing easier is a better way of life!

Editor’s Note:  by Harlan Weinberg, MD.  Dr. Weinberg is Medical Director of Pulmonary Rehabilitation at Northern Westchester Hospital.  Ken Montini is the Rehabilitation Therapy Director and Exercise Physiologist.