Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) affects millions of people in the U.S. In fact, it’s the third leading cause of death, resulting in tens of thousands of lives lost yearly. As if this isn’t sad enough, it’s made worse by the fact that COPD is often preventable and treatable.

What can you do to prevent yourself and others from falling victim to the grips of COPD? Read on to find out. Before you can learn to protect yourself from something, though, you need to know what you’re up against. Hence the question: What is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease?

A Chronic Lung Disease

This disease, as its name implies, involved the obstruction of the lungs. This results in an array of symptoms including:

  • Shortness of breath (during normal activities that require little effort and exertion)
  • Persistent coughing or wheezing
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Increased production of mucus or phlegm
  • Blue tinting of lips and fingernails (due to not receiving enough oxygen to these tissues)
  • Repeated respiratory infections

Unfortunately, this condition is often harder to treat than it has to be. Why? Because many, in an effort to avoid the dreaded trip to the doctor, dismiss shortness of breath and similar symptoms. They reason that it’s just a part of aging or putting on a few extra pounds.

What a mistake! In fact, it’s never normal to be unable to catch a full breath. Never. That in itself is a sign that it’s time to visit your healthcare provider. And the other symptoms are definitely not anything to be taken lightly.

Ultimately, only a medical professional can determine the cause of your symptoms. However, you can identify things that may be putting you at a higher risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Common Causes of COPD

What factors are present in your life?


85 to 90% of COPD cases are the result of smoking cigarettes. Did you know that cigarettes release somewhere in the ballpark of 7,000 chemicals when they burn? It’s no surprise that many of those chemicals are harmful to the human body!

Fume and Chemical Inhalation

Most often work-related, the prolonged exposure to fume and chemicals can adversely affect the function a person’s lungs. Strong cleaning products like bleach and ammonia can have the same effect, especially when improperly mixed together.


Constantly being exposed to significant amounts of dust can also have a negative impact on lung function. Such dust can be blown through ventilation systems, collect in carpets and so on. Dander from pets can also aggravate symptoms.

How Can You Decrease Your Risk?

If you smoke, quit. If not, do your best to limit your exposure to secondhand smoke. This might even mean helping a family member or close friend to kick this deadly habit.

If you work in an environment that exposes you to chemicals and fumes frequently, wear proper protection such as a face mask. At home, try cleaning with less harsh cleansers such a baking soda and vinegar.

Keep dust and pet dander to a minimum in your home by vacuuming or sweeping regularly, dusting frequently and using air purifiers. Do your best to keep any heating or cooling systems from collecting dust, which will be blown around your home if it’s left to sit.

A Defense Against Long-Term Problems

Making these changes can dramatically decrease your risk of COPD, which is inclusive of lung conditions like emphysema and bronchitis.

You don’t have to be a part of the statistics mentioned at the outset. Do your best to eliminate risk factors from your life and don’t hesitate to seek diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible if something is not right. It could very well save your life!