Breathing connects us to life—and it’s something that most people take for granted. For those with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), the simple act of breathing can be a daily struggle.

Despite affecting millions of Americans, COPD is often misunderstood. Here are four myths to watch out for:

MYTH 1:

ONLY SMOKERSGET COPD.

Actually, millions of people with this condition—approximately 25 percent, according to the National Institutes of Health—have never had a cigarette. Being sick is not something to feel guilty about. That said, COPD is associated with smoking, and taking steps to quit is never a bad idea.

MYTH 2:

THERE IS NO TREATMENTFOR COPD.

COPD may not be reversible, but it is treatable. People with COPD have treatment options available to them that can help. “Maintenance” treatments include options that can help reduce inflammation in the walls of the airways and may also work to relax the muscles around the airway wall, helping keep them open.

MYTH 3:

IT’S TOO LATE TO QUIT SMOKINGIF YOU HAVE COPD.

Some people think that once they’re diagnosed with COPD, there’s no point in quitting smoking. The truth is, it’s never too late to quit. Even though quitting won’t reverse the damage already done to your lungs, it will help to slow the advancement of your disease—which is a great benefit.

MYTH 4:

EXERCISE IS TOO HARD IF YOU HAVE COPD.

Having shortness of breath can make even light physical activity feel like an ordeal. But there’s something you can do. Ask your doctor about pulmonary rehabilitation, a program where breathing experts teach breathing techniques, exercises, and nutrition that can help make living with COPD less of a burden.

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION