November 2, 2010

Olympic Gold Medalist Bruce Jenner enters a new race – to find the millions of people at risk for COPD

Posted: 11:23 AM ET

Bruce Jenner broke Olympic records and earned America a gold medal for decathlon in 1976. Here, he shares his family’s personal battle with a debilitating disease that affects millions across the country.

As an athlete, my health has always been important to me. My wife Kris and I enjoy keeping an active lifestyle, so it’s hard to imagine what it would be like if breathing problems kept me from participating in the activities I love to do. But that’s exactly what happens to many people who develop COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

COPD includes chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or both. Over time, it makes it harder and harder to breathe because less air is able to flow in and out of the lungs. Unfortunately, many people mistake its symptoms for normal signs of aging, so they wait to see their doctor. But because COPD is a progressive disease, it becomes worse over time, causing more damage to the lungs.

You might be surprised to learn that COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in America, killing more people each year than breast cancer and diabetes combined. An estimated 24 million Americans have impaired lung function, but half of them don’t know it.

In fact, I didn’t know much about it either until I learned that Kris’s grandparents both had the disease. COPD took a huge toll on their lives, and it was difficult for us as well. It’s scary not being able to get enough oxygen to breathe easily. Even when we talked with them on the phone, we could hear them gasping for air.

The worst part was learning that if they had been diagnosed earlier, they may have been able to work with their doctor to better manage the disease and get more out of life. I don’t want other people to have to go through what my family did. That’s why I’m raising awareness about this disease through the DRIVE4COPD campaign.

DRIVE4COPD is a powerful group of sports, healthcare and consumer organizations, combined with celebrities, who have joined together with the founding sponsor, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., to help put the brakes on COPD. The campaign also includes the American Association for Respiratory Care, the American Lung Association and the COPD Foundation and is the Official Health Initiative of NASCAR®.

I’m also working with Emmy-nominated actor Jim Belushi, Grammy Award-winning country music star Patty Loveless, Go Daddy and NASCAR Nationwide Series™ Driver Danica Patrick and Pro Football great Michael Strahan on this campaign. Each of us has lost a loved one to COPD and together, we’re working to try and get 1 million Americans screened.

It’s important for people to recognize that they shouldn’t ignore symptoms like shortness of breath or a cough that won’t go away, because these may be signs of COPD. And while COPD can’t be cured, seeing a doctor and taking steps to manage the disease can help you breathe better.

I encourage people aged 35 or older to take a brief, five-question screener to see if they may be at risk for COPD. It’s available online, and it just takes a few minutes to complete.  After you take it, be sure to talk to your doctor about your results. The higher your score, the more likely you are to be at risk for COPD.

For more information about COPD or to learn how you can get involved with this worthwhile cause, visit DRIVE4COPD.COM. If you think you or a loved one might be at risk, please don’t wait – take action today so you can breathe better tomorrow.

Filed under: Bruce Jenner • LKL Web Exclusive

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Jessie from Auckland, NZ   November 2nd, 2010 8:44 pm ET

Bruce Jenner is looking good in that photo I must say. Kudos to him for highlighting this debilitating disease COPD, which I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

It is close to my heart as my Mum died from it at an early age of 61 years. Along with a hard life and other factors, she was a smoker though not a heavy one and developed chronic bronchitus which turned into emphysemia, then congestive heart failure killed her in the end. It takes it's toll.

"The Vitamin E May Protect Lungs" is a very good article to read and gives good and helpful information and relates to this disease.

Manideepa Patnaik   November 3rd, 2010 4:47 am ET

I am highly grateful to people who published this story in the right place so that I could read it. My son has breathing troubles that I always thought could be related to cardiac troubles. He has been under criminal pressure related to scam and politics and kept with father who has been separated from me. I have been running to his school authorities telling them not to allow my son to run and play a lot because I really fear the way he faces breathing troubles. His father who lives with now is a chain smoker. I could not get justice from law or police or society to keep him with me for his health and well being, but now at least I know that I can tell a doctor to reach him at his school with proper exercise plans and medications. Thanks a lot. This is a life saving story.

Graham Phillips   November 3rd, 2010 10:10 am ET

As a sufferer of COPD, I congratulate Mr Jenner for this article and the other contributors such as Patty Loveless who I am a fan of. Having had 2 major respiratory arrests in the past 2 years, I know the value of support from those around me. Thank you for continuing to publicise the issues faced by those like myself.

Julie Bum   November 3rd, 2010 11:57 am ET

I love Bruce Jenner

Joe G. (Illinois)   November 3rd, 2010 5:16 pm ET

Certainly it’s easy to believe that some people would make sure that they have a full tank of gas in their gateway car.. But that’s not what life should be all about. It’s not about how far you go, but what you have done and how you have done it.

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