New York Yankees all-time great Bernie Williams is teaming up with Boehringer Ingelheim to raise awareness of a lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) that his father suffered from for years before he passed away in 2001.

Back in Puerto Rico, Williams’ father Bernabé inspired him to play baseball and make it to the Major Leagues. He also taught him to play guitar, which has become Williams’ second career since retiring from baseball.

In honor of his father’s battle with IPF, Williams has joined the Sin Aliento campaign to turn his family’s devastating experience with this rare lung disease into a chance to help other families. Williams hopes to educate and empower others who think they may have IPF to seek early diagnosis and treatment and is encouraging people to visit the campaign website www.SinAliento.com – and share the videos and educational Spanish content through social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter using #SinAliento. In addition, they can sign up to the Sin Aliento™ program and receive monthly information in Spanish via e-mail or text messages.

“Whether I was in centerfield or at bat, my dad was always my biggest fan. He seemed invincible. So when he was finally diagnosed with IPF after battling symptoms like breathlessness and a debilitating cough that persisted for many months, it was devastating to me and my family,” said Williams. “Sharing my dad’s story is so important because it will help others get the answers they need sooner and easier.”

IPF is a rare and serious lung disease that causes permanent scarring of the lungs, and makes it difficult to breathe. Symptoms of IPF include breathlessness during activity, a dry and persistent cough, chest discomfort, fatigue and weakness. Although considered “rare,” IPF affects up to 132,000 Americans, and according to the The Lancet, Hispanics are more likely to suffer from the disease with a 15% higher incidence than the general population. Also, about 50,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed every year with IPF – enough to fill a baseball stadium.

“Boehringer Ingelheim is proud to partner with baseball legend Bernie Williams who can speak personally about how IPF affected his dad and his family,” said Al Masucci, vice president, IPF Business Unit, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. “Through the Sin Aliento campaign, we hope to educate people to recognize the signs of the disease and take action to see a doctor as early as possible. It is important that a correct medical diagnosis is determined as IPF is often misdiagnosed.”

The symptoms of IPF are similar to, and often confused with, other more recognizable diseases such chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, or congestive heart failure. There are IPF treatments available, including supplemental oxygen, cough management and pulmonary rehabilitation, which can include special exercises or breathing strategies. In 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first drugs specifically indicated for the treatment of IPF.

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