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COPD, the Preventable Disease

COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a term used to describe several illnesses, including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and bronchiectasis. COPD causes difficulty breathing, fatigue, limited airflow both in and out of the lungs, chronic cough, and tightness in the chest.

This disease is progressive, usually diagnosed in middle age and increasing in severity with age. More women have died of COPD than men since 2000, but previously it was thought to be man’s disease. COPD is irreversible, but its progress can be slowed with proper treatment.

There are four main causes of COPD and all of them may be preventable. They are smoking, secondhand smoke, air pollution, and occupational exposure. There is a genetic risk factor called antitrypsin deficiency-relate emphysema (AAT), but it only accounts for 2-3% of the diagnoses in the United States.


An estimated 80% of deaths from COPD are from smoking. A smoker, either male or female, is twelve times more likely to die from COPY than a nonsmoker. If you are a smoker, the sooner you quit, the less likely you are to develop COPD. The best prevention is to never start smoking.

Secondhand Smoke

The American Lung Association attributes 50,000 deaths a year to secondhand smoke, mostly from heart disease and lung cancer. If you are a smoker, please be aware that your smoke is causing health risks for others, especially children. Secondhand smoke is a factor in contracting COPD.

Air Pollution

You are affected by air quality every day, whether from motor traffic emissions, smog, ozone, or fine-particulate air pollution. New studies have shown a higher risk of developing lung diseases such as COPD from newer air pollution sources.

Occupational Exposure

Exposure to silica, coal mine dust, cotton dust, and grain dust care known to cause occupational COPD. Also, exposure to other chemical agents will aggravate asthma and other lung disorders. If you work in an atmosphere where you are exposed to high-risk substances, be sure your employer supplies you with personal protective equipment, including gloves, masks, and aprons.

American Lung Association statistics say that 12.7 Americans suffered from COPD. However, 65-80% of those with mild to moderate COPD are undiagnosed. If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor because early COPD treatment helps slow the progress of this disease.

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