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The Facts About COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a long-term lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. The disease affects millions of Americans and is the third leading cause of disease-related death in the U.S. The good news is COPD is often preventable and treatable. 
COPD is a chronic lung disease that gets worse over time. More than 15.3 million people in the U.S. suffer from COPD. It causes serious long-term disability and early death. There’s no cure, but COPD can be prevented and treated. Early detection is key to successful treatment. If you have any of the symptoms or exposures to risk factors mentioned in the sections below, talk to your doctor about them.
Shortness of breath or a lingering cough could be early warning signs of COPD. The main cause of COPD is smoking, but nonsmokers can get COPD too. About 85 to 90 percent of all COPD cases are caused by cigarette smoking. What you breathe every day at work, home, and outside can also play a role in developing COPD. Long-term exposure to air pollution, secondhand smoke and dust, and fumes and chemicals (which are often work-related) can cause COPD. 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.
If you are concerned about getting COPD, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
• If you are a smoker, STOP SMOKING. Quitting smoking is the single most important thing a smoker can do to live a longer and healthier life. The American Lung Association has many programs to help you quit for good.
• If you don’t smoke, don’t start. Smoking causes COPD, lung cancer, heart disease and other cancers.
• Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. Make your home smoke free. You’ll not only protect yourself, but your family too.
• Be aware of other dangers. Take care to protect yourself against chemicals, dust, and fumes in your home and at work.
• Help fight for clean air. Work with others in your community to help clean up the air you and your family breathe.
Understand if you are at risk for COPD and talk with your doctor on how to protect your lungs. The American Lung Association can provide resources and tools to help you understand COPD, manage treatment and lifestyle changes, find support, and take action.  Check out the website at


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