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Factors That Increase the Risk of Developing COPD

Updated: Jan 15

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a disease that many people know about in passing. There are many commercials on TV advertising medication and treatment plans for those with COPD. Others know COPD as one of several common conditions that requires oxygen therapy.

While many people know of COPD, fewer know about the risk factors of developing this disease and what they can do to mitigate them. Keep reading to learn about the factors that increase the risk of developing COPD so that you can take charge of your health.

Smoke Exposure

The greatest risk factor that could lead to COPD is exposure to smoke, especially tobacco and cigarette smoke. While long-term exposure to secondhand smoke can also lead to COPD, it is the actual smoker who faces the highest risk. Cigarette smoke is the most damaging, but smoking tobacco with a pipe or in a cigar can also increase the risk.

Inhaling smoke from burning fuel can also cause COPD. The same is true for those burning fuel to heat their homes. Homes with poor insulation and fuel-based heating systems can contribute to smoke inhalation, increasing a resident’s risk of developing COPD.

Chemical Exposure

Chemical exposure can also play a large role in the potential development of COPD. Most people experience chemical exposure in the workplace, breathing in chemical fumes, vapors, and dust at a jobsite. While short-term chemical exposure doesn’t greatly increase the risk of developing COPD, long-term exposure does, as it irritates and inflames the lungs. Wearing a face mask can help mitigate this risk factor, but it’s crucial to always monitor for symptoms.

Asthma and Respiratory Infections

People who have asthma or frequently experience respiratory infections are at a higher risk of developing COPD. Asthma and other respiratory infections inflame the airway, leaving it prone to future problems. While proper treatment can help mitigate the risk of developing COPD, you need to communicate with your doctor and watch for major symptoms such as chest tightness.

Smoke exposure, chemical exposure, asthma, and prior respiratory infections are the four most common factors that increase the risk of developing COPD. Low levels of the alpha-1-antitrypsin protein can also increase the risk of developing COPD, but this is rare. Often, you can control the risk factors of developing COPD by protecting your airways from smoke and chemicals. Taking care of yourself and your lungs will help you stay healthy.

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