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Understanding COPD: Causes, Risk Factors, and Management

Nov 8, 2023

Deming, NM – In the United States, more than 12.5 million people grapple with a silent respiratory culprit—Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). November is COPD Awareness Month and the perfect time to explore the causes, risk factors, and strategies for managing a condition that affects both smokers and non-smokers. Over time, exposure to lung irritants like tobacco smoke or chemicals can harm lungs and airways. This long-term exposure can cause COPD, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

The leading cause of COPD is smoking; however, 1 in 4 with
COPD never smoked. Occupational exposures to vapors, gases, dust, and fumes cause 14% of
COPD cases. Smoking is the leading risk factor, but other causes may include:

• Exposure to secondhand smoke
• A history of childhood respiratory infections or asthma
• Smoke exposure from coal or wood-burning stove
• People who have underdeveloped lungs

While these causes and risk factors may increase the risk of developing COPD, people living in
poverty and people living in rural areas are more likely to develop COPD. Beyond smoking,
some reasons for the increased risk of developing COPD may include exposure to indoor and
outdoor pollutants, occupational exposures, and lack of access to healthcare.

A Closer Look at Rural Communities and Gender Disparities
Its prevalence is more pronounced in rural communities, with 8% of people living in rural
communities living with COPD. Eleven states have the highest COPD rates in the country. States
along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers have the highest COPD prevalence. State prevalence rates
range from 3.7% in Hawaii to 13.6% in West Virginia.

Both men and women grapple with the disease, but 5.6% of women have COPD compared to
4.3% of men, resulting in more than 2,200,000 more women living with COPD than men.
“COPD can have a wide gamut of symptoms, but one of the leading symptoms is a persistent
cough and difficulty breathing,” explained Dr. Wendu Ileka “Typically, COPD patients feel
exhausted just from trying to breathe.”

Here are the most common COPD symptoms:

• A chronic, persistent cough
• Shortness of breath after everyday activities
• Coughing up mucus
• Wheezing or chest tightness
• Difficulty taking a deep breath
• Fatigue or tiredness

Talk to your healthcare provider if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. If you have
been experiencing any COPD symptoms, call 575-543-7600 or schedule at

While there is no cure for COPD, patients can manage the disease and have a better quality of
life. The pulmonary and respiratory health services at Mimbres Memorial Hospital specialize in
lung care and focus on detecting, monitoring, and treating lung-related issues.
The department is staffed by well-trained respiratory care practitioners 24 hours a day.

Services at Mimbres Memorial Hospital include:

• Arterial Blood Gas Studies
• Cardiac Stress Testing
• Holter Monitoring
• Pulmonary Function Tests

Dr. Chinwendu Ileka is the Internal Medicine physician at Mimbres Valley Medical
Group/Deming Family Practice. Dr. Ileka is proud to provide ongoing support managing the
chronic condition of COPD and other conditions such as asthma or diabetes.
To find out more about Dr. Ileka and Deming Family Practice, please visit

Mimbres Valley Medical Group Rural Health Clinic
Mimbres Valley Medical Group RHC a Part of Mimbres Memorial Hospital provides Internal
Medicine, Family Practice, Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecological preventative outpatient care
to southwestern New Mexico. Mimbres Valley Medical Group is located on campus at Mimbres
Memorial Hospital 905 South 8th Street Suite B. Patients can make appointments either through
the central scheduling at 575-543-7200 or online at