Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, best known as COPD, is the third leading cause of death in the United States. While it is a devastating disease for many people, it’s not only treatable, but it is preventable. There are three main causes of COPD, they are:
Smoking – it is estimated that 80 to 90% of all cases of COPD are caused by smoking.
Air pollutants – we are exposed everyday to air pollution, which is worse in some areas of the country than it is in others. You may also be exposed to irritants and fumes on your job that can get into your lungs and cause the disease.
Heredity – there is a rare form of the disease that is called alpha-1 (AAT) related emphysema. COPD resulting from this problem is caused by a lack of protective proteins in the blood and it is hereditary.
Can I Get COPD if I Don’t Smoke?
Even if you don’t smoke, you can develop COPD, however it is less like it will happen. Smoking is the number one cause of the disease, so if you don’t smoke, you may not ever get it. However, if you live in an area with an air pollution problem or if you work around chemicals, smoke and fumes, you can develop COPD by breathing those things into your lungs over a long period of time. Also, while it is very rare, there is an inherited condition that can cause COPD.
How to Prevent COPD
Fortunately, COPD is preventable. The best way to keep from getting this disease is to not smoke. So, if you are a smoker, you need to quit and if you are not a smoker, avoid contact with smokers so you won’t be exposed to second hand smoke and don’t start smoking. Know your rights when it comes to be exposed to second hand smoke in public places. In many areas, there are ordinances against smoking in public places or venues.
Learn about cleaning up the air you breath in at home and at work. In your home, check your air quality and fix any problems that you find. Gas leaks, radon gas, mold, rodent and insect infestations will affect the air quality in your home and you can end up getting very sick, including developing COPD. Taking care of any problems you find will help keep your lungs healthier.
It is important to learn which precautions you can take at work to prevent inhaling pollutants, fumes and irritants. You may need to wear a face mask or an air respirator while on the job in order to keep from breathing in pollutants so you can prevent lung issues in the future. Your employer should provide these safety items at no charge to you, find out if they have them on hand and learn about your rights to a healthy work environment.