Alayne Ronnenberg, ScD
Nearly all cases of COPD can be prevented. Practice these preventive measures to reduce your risk of developing COPD.
Almost all COPD cases are caused by cigarette smoking. Never smoking, or quitting if you already smoke, are the single most important steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing COPD. This preventive measure is particularly important if you have family members who developed COPD at a young age (in their 30s or 40s).
Try to avoid or limit exposure to:
Be aware of air pollution alerts. Avoid outdoor activities when air quality is particularly poor. Do not exercise in areas where levels of car exhaust are high.
Repeated lower respiratory infections,
pneumonia, and acute bronchitis
can produce scarring. This is particularly true in young children. Scarring contributes to the development of COPD. Whenever possible, try to avoid close contact with people who have contagious respiratory infections. Get a
if you are 65 years or older, or have risk factors for pneumonia. Make sure you get yearly
If someone in your family developed COPD but never smoked, or developed the disease at an early age, you may have a genetic defect that increases your risk of the disease. You should consider having a blood test to measure levels of alpha-1-antitrypsin. This is an important protein that helps protect the lungs from damage due to inflammation. Low levels of this protein increase your risk of developing COPD. You should discuss this with your doctor.
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Global strategy for the diagnosis, management, and prevention of
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 2017. Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease website. Available at:
http://goldcopd.org/gold-2017-global-strategy-diagnosis-management-prevention-copd. Accessed February 22, 2017.
How can COPD be prevented? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at:
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/copd/prevention. Updated July 23, 2013. Accessed February 22, 2017.
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Risk of COPD from exposure to biomass smoke: a meta-analysis.
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COPD and chronic bronchitis risk of indoor air pollution from solid fuel: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
Preventing COPD. American Lung Association website. Available at:
http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/copd/symptoms-causes-risk-factors/preventing-copd.html. Updated November 30, 2016. Accessed February 22, 2017.
6/20/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115557/COPD: Po JY, FitzGerald JM, Carlsten C. Respiratory disease associated with solid biomass fuel exposure in rural women and children: systematic review and meta-analysis. Thorax. 2011;66(3):232-239.
Last reviewed February 2017 by
Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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