What are the risk factors of COPD?

November is COPD Awareness Month, so what exactly is it and are you at risk of the diagnosis?

First, what is COPD?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an umbrella term used to describe progressive lung diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and non-reversible asthma. This disease is characterized by increasing breathlessness.

What are the risk factors?

According to lung.org, over time, exposure to irritants that damage your lungs and airways can cause COPD. The main cause of COPD is smoking, but nonsmokers can get COPD too.

Smoking

About 85 to 90 percent of all COPD  cases are caused by cigarette smoking. When a cigarette burns, it creates more than 7,000 chemicals, many of which are harmful. The toxins in cigarette smoke weaken your lungs’ defense against infections, narrow air passages, cause swelling in air tubes and destroy air sacs—all contributing factors for COPD.

Your Environment

What you breathe every day at work, home and outside can play a role in developing COPD. Long-term exposure to air pollution, secondhand smoke and dust, fumes and chemicals (which are often work-related) can cause COPD.

Alpha-1 Deficiency

A small number of people have a rare form of COPD called alpha-1 deficiency-related emphysema. This form of COPD is caused by a genetic (inherited) condition that affects the body’s ability to produce a protein (Alpha-1) that protects the lungs.

Helping those with COPD or coping with the diagnosis

Twenty four million Americans suffer with COPD, so knowing you aren’t alone is an important.

The COPD Foundation suggests these steps –

  • Tell your health care professional if you’re feeling depressed or anxious.
  • Learn about COPD. Understanding what’s happening in your lungs and learning proper breathing techniques can help you control your breathing instead of letting it control you. Ask your health care professional about referring you to a pulmonary rehabilitation program.
  • Talk with others. In pulmonary rehabilitation or a COPD support group you will learn from experts, as well as share ideas and find encouragement from others who have the same concerns.
  • Stay active! You may not be able to do some of the things you used to do, but it shouldn’t stop you from doing everything! By staying active and exercising, you’ll improve your overall fitness, strength, flexibility, and state of mind.

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