What Is COPD? Leonard Nimoy’s Death Serves As Cautionary Tale

Star Trek legend Leonard Nimoy died from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, an illness most often triggered by smoking tobacco. Nimoy was diagnosed with COPD and spent the past year detailing moments of his struggle on Twitter. About a month before his death, he poignantly tweeted, “Don’t smoke. I did. Wish I never had. LLAP.”

The Star Trek star didn’t suffer alone. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the third biggest killer in the U.S., causing 149,205 deaths in 2013, according to the CDC. Nevertheless, many underestimate the disease or don’t fully understand it.

According to Yahoo News, COPD actually refers to a number of conditions: most often chronic bronchitis and emphysema, which frequently occur together. COPD causes difficulty breathing through a number of symptoms, including thickened or inflamed airways, damage to the airways, or even mucus clogging the respiratory system.

Leonard Nimoy started reporting similar issues in early 2014.

Smoking is the leading cause of COPD, according to the CDC. Factors such as genetics, home, and workplace air pollutants, and past respiratory infections also play a role. Nimoy quit smoking over 30 years ago, and became an active anti-smoking advocate.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease affects about 15 million Americans. That number might be higher; low-awareness of the disease prevents people from getting checked out.

Those millions of people could likely relate to Nimoy’s struggles, but more importantly the Star Trek legend made his condition a cautionary tale to encourage people to stop smoking.

Nevertheless, Nimoy understood the difficulty in kicking the habit.

There is no cure for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, but with careful supervision from a doctor, the symptoms can be managed. Early detection can also help improve quality of life for patients, but nearly 50 percent of people with lung problems didn’t know it could be COPD, according to CDC research. Of course, the most important treatment for COPD is to stop smoking. Leonard Nimoy left this poignant message a little over a month before his tragic death. He was 83 years old.

[Image Credit: Getty Images]