Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) affects more than 16 million people in the United States annually. It causes millions of visits to the emergency room and requires tens of billions of dollars in healthcare costs every year.
Because COPD can lead to severe long-term disability and even early death, you should know the risk factors for the disease so you can stay aware of any changes in your health and that of your loved ones.
If you have COPD, the lung tissue responsible for exchanging oxygen is destroyed as your airways thicken and become inflamed. Your decreased oxygen levels and shortness of breath make it harder to stay active and even breathe. Your condition can include emphysema and/or chronic bronchitis.
COPD has no cure, but it can be treated and managed after diagnosis. We often see this disease here at Physician’s Medical Primary Care, so here are the risk factors you need to watch out for:
Smoking is the biggest risk factor for developing and dying from COPD — 85%-90% of COPD cases are caused by smoking. The best thing you can do to limit your chances of ever getting COPD (and to prolong your life) is to stop smoking immediately.
COPD can be caused or exacerbated by breathing in air pollution, secondhand smoke, dust, fumes, and chemicals. What you take into your lungs daily can also play a role in COPD. You don’t have complete control over your surroundings at all times, but where you do have control — such as with secondhand smoke in your home — you should create a safe environment.
Genetics and age
Alpha-1 deficiency is a genetic condition that affects the body’s ability to produce the Alpha-1 protein that protects the lungs. This is a rare form of COPD, and you can’t control it, but it is a good factor to be aware of. You’re also more likely to develop COPD if you have a family history.
Age is also a factor — most people with COPD are at least 40 before they begin to show symptoms.
Respiratory infection history
If you have a history of respiratory infections from childhood, you may also be more likely to develop COPD. If you have asthma, you are also at higher risk of COPD than if you don’t have asthma, but most people with asthma don’t develop COPD.
If you have COPD and need help managing your condition, our expert team at Physician’s Medical Primary Care is ready and willing to support you. Call one of our three offices or book an appointment online, and we’ll see you soon!