While it's often associated with middle-aged males who have developed lifelong tobacco habits, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease -- or COPD -- is affecting a specific segment of society at an alarming rate: women.
With the recent death of former First Lady Barbara Bush, the deadly lung disease that plagues more than seven million American women each year is now in the spotlight.
The leading cause of COPD is smoking, which gradually destroys lung tissue and leads to the development of additional breathing disorders such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. In addition to targeting the lungs, smoking and COPD can also affect the surrounding organs, specifically weakening the heart and developing a predisposition to cancer.
While both men and women who smoke are susceptible to developing COPD, the female lung more quickly reduces in capacity when exposed to tobacco, making women more likely to have side effects. Additionally, studies have shown that women are less able to overcome nicotine dependance, making them more likely to remain a smoker for longer.
Visit Northern Westchester Hospital's blog to read more about how chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is detected and treated.