Sunderland named region’s lung disease capital as COPD claims 340 people a year

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Deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in SUNDERLAND between 2012 and 2014

Stark figures released by Public Health England (PHE) show 678 people died from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in Sunderland between 2012 and 2014 – which adds up to almost a death a day.

Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh.

Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh.

Campaign group Fresh has now joined forces with PHE to highlight how debilitating serious lung diseases are.

Experts say smoking is the biggest preventable risk factor for COPD which is the UK’s fifth biggest killer disease, claiming more lives than breast, bowel or prostate cancer.

And it is having a devastating effect in the city. Statistics on death rates show 678 people died from the disease in Sunderland between 2012 and 2014.

On an adjusted rate (in which the figures are related to the population count per 100,000 people), the city’s death rate of 84.4 people is the highest in the North East, ahead of South Tyneside, Middlesbrough, Gateshead and County Durham.

COPD may not be well known but it can be a serious and severely debilitating disease, dramatically affecting people’s lives and leading to years of suffering

Ailsa Rutter, Director of Fresh

The call for people to pack in for New Year went out with a warning that some of the symptoms often dismissed as a “normal” part of smoking can be an early sign of lung damage.

People with COPD have difficulties breathing, mainly because of the narrowing of their airways and destruction of lung tissue.

Typical symptoms include breathlessness when active, a persistent cough and frequent chest infections.

Many can’t take part in everyday activities such as climbing stairs, housework or gardening; and many can’t take a holiday because of their disease.

Latest GP figures show 75,370 people were diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in the North East in 2014-15.

There were 5,192 deaths across the region from COPD which is the umbrella term for serious lung conditions that include chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Ailsa Rutter, Director of Fresh, said: “COPD may not be well known but it can be a serious and severely debilitating disease, dramatically affecting people’s lives and leading to years of suffering.

“The single best thing a smoker can do to reduce their chances of developing this devastating disease and the impact on their loved ones is to stop smoking.

“January is a time when many people make New Year’s resolutions and resolving to stop smoking is the best thing you can do not only for your health but for the health of those around you. Search ‘Smokefree’ online or visit your local stop smoking service to get the help and support you need to quit smoking for good.”

Dr Neil Munro, Consultant Respiratory Physician with County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, based at the University Hospital of North Durham, said: “COPD is a disease mainly caused by smoking. Unfortunately it’s a disease many smokers don’t know much about until they are diagnosed. It can be a cruel disease but its worst symptoms can be prevented by quitting smoking early enough.

“A person with COPD will experience a much more rapid and severe decline in the function of their lungs, potentially making tasks that they previously took for granted like walking upstairs, washing or shopping become tremendously hard work.

“For anyone who smokes, is in their 30s or older and is experiencing shortness of breath, it is important they quit sooner rather than later. This can be a warning sign of the disease, not a “normal” part of smoking.

“Many COPD patients do find stopping smoking and treatment can really help their quality of life, but unfortunately we do not have any treatments to reverse the damage already sustained. The only way to stop the rapid deterioration in lung function is to stop smoking.”

People wanting help to quit should search ‘Smokefree’ online or contact their local Stop Smoking Service.

In Sunderland, people can find out more on Freephone 0800 531 6317.

The County Durham NHS Stop Smoking Service is available on 0800 011 3405.

And in South Tyneside, contact (0191) 4247300.