COPD is a leading cause of death, illness, and disability in the United States. In 20010, 134,676 people died from COPD in the U.S., according to the American Lung Association (ALA). Recent health surveys suggest that as many as 24 million Americans are affected by COPD, and many do not know it. The good news is that, except in rare genetic cases, COPD can be prevented.
Smoking is the main cause of COPD. Approximately 85 to 90 percent of COPD deaths are caused by smoking, according to the ALA. The best way to prevent COPD is to never smoke. If you’ve already started smoking, stop. Ask your healthcare provider about tobacco-cessation programs if you’re having a difficult time quitting.
There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemical compounds. More than 250 of these are known to be harmful. Secondhand smoke causes lung infections that result in 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations per year, according to the American Cancer Society. Breathing secondhand smoke is referred to as passive smoking.
Steps you can take to avoid secondhand smoke include the following:
- Don’t allow smoking in your home. Ask guests and family members to step outside to smoke.
- Don’t allow smoking in your car.
- Insist that smoking restrictions be enforced in your workplace and other public places where smoking is not allowed.
- Do business with companies and professionals that do not allow smoking.
Hazards such as chemical fumes and dust are also known to cause COPD, so be aware of these and protect yourself. Discuss prevention with your employer, and wear a protective mask to avoid workplace pollutants if necessary.