Country star Patty Loveless: Get screened for lung disease

Apr 19, 2010 at 5:59 p.m. ET

Grammy-award winning country music star Patty Loveless has written a new song for a health campaign about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a lung disease that is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States – COPD kills more people each year than breast cancer and diabetes combined. Awareness and early screening could change the statistics.

Patty LovelessSingers join to raise awareness

Country star Patty Loveless, who will be inducted into the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame in April of next year, is touring her latest album, Mountain Soul II and, in May, will perform a benefit concert with Dave Matthews and Emmylou Harris to raise awareness about the "plundering of Appalachia by mountaintop removal coal mining." But even closer to her heart is her participation in DRIVE4COPD, a campaign to encourage people to get screened for COPD, a common potentially deadly lung disease, so they can breathe better.

In 1996, Loveless lost her sister to emphysema, a form of COPD, at age 48. "It was devastating to watch my older sister, Dottie, lose her vitality and eventually her life," says Loveless. "I was inspired by her to take on singing as a career, and I remember her being so full of life before COPD, but it got to the point where she couldn't do the activities she loved."

Even though COPD is characterized by obvious symptoms, of the 24 million Americans who may have COPD, half of them don't know it and remain undiagnosed. "Dottie suffered for years with this disease and didn't even know she had it until near the end," adds Loveless.

Symptoms of COPD

According to the Canadian Lung Association, the main symptoms of COPD are a long-lasting cough, coughing up mucus, and being short of breath. In countries such as Canada and the US, smoking causes about 80 percent of COPD cases. Other factors that can cause COPD are second-hand smoke, air pollution – dust or chemicals – and having repeated lung infections as a child.

Can we prevent COPD? Yes, we can prevent most cases of COPD by not smoking and by staying away from second-hand smoke and other air pollution. If you smoke, you can reduce your chance of getting COPD by quitting as soon as possible.

New song Drive to raise awareness

Loveless wrote the song Drive for the campaign and the memory of her sister, Dottie, debuting the song at the DRIVE4COPD 300 in Daytona in February. Her fellow DRIVE4COPD teammate, Danica Patrick, made her first NASCAR appearance in this race, drawing attention to the COPD campaign as well as her NASCAR career.

"I wanted to write an upbeat song that encourages people to take action if they might have this disease and get back to living life again," Loveless says.

"I tell anyone who will listen: take the five-question screener at that helps determine if they are at risk for COPD and if they are, to talk to their doctor because there are steps you can take to breathe better. Those who take the screener can be entered to win an Ultimate NASCAR weekend – I'm behind anything that encourages people to take care of themselves."

Early detection for lung detection saves lives

Early diagnosis of COPD is crucial because once you have lost lung function you can't get it back. Many people think their symptoms, like being short of breath or having less energy, are just signs of getting older and they wait too long to see a doctor.

There is no cure for COPD, but there are good treatments:

  • Quitting smoking, and staying away from smoke and air pollution.
  • Taking COPD medications, which can include pills, inhalers (puffers), and supplemental oxygen.
  • Joining a pulmonary rehabilitation program, a special class that teaches exercise and COPD management.

"When my sister was suffering I had no idea what COPD was," Loveless says. "Sometimes I think to myself: If only I had known. A lot of people think this is a disease that affects only older men, but really a lot of people are at risk. So, I've educated myself and now I am spreading the word."

For more information on the DRIVE4COPD campaign, please visit DRIVE4COPD.COM

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