Women Living with COPD: Ask the Healthcare Provider

Respiratory Health Association sat down with MeiLan K. Han, MD, MS, Professor and Director of the Michigan Airways Program at the University of Michigan Health System to address some questions from women living with COPD.

What should women know about COPD?

Women are at equal risk for COPD as men, and in fact some studies suggest women are more susceptible. Women also comprise a higher percentage of individuals living with COPD who have never smoked.

Dr. Han stated that while it is certain that more women die of COPD than men in the US, this may be related to lower risk of dying from other things like heart disease, which, may affect men at an earlier age. However, she emphasized that women with COPD may present with greater symptoms than men and may experience more frequent exacerbations.

How do women know if they should have a COPD screening? When should women be screened for COPD?

If someone is feeling short of breath with activities or experiencing frequent respiratory infections, regardless of smoking history she should discuss with her physician undergoing a breathing test called “spirometry”.

What are steps that women can take to manage their COPD?

There are medications that can help in addition to exercise and life-style management strategies. Patients should talk to their doctor about the most appropriate medications for them and also inquire about whether they would benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation, a formal exercise and disease management program.

Interested in learning more about how women can recognize the signs of lung diseases like COPD? Dr. Han shares some more advice: