Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a serious lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. COPD includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It is the third-leading cause of death in the United States and it currently affects about 12 million Americans. Another 12 million may have COPD, but are undiagnosed.
Are you at risk for COPD?
A variety of factors may increase your chance of getting COPD. You may be able to avoid some of them, but others are out of your control. The risk factors for COPD include:
- Smoking. This is the most common cause of COPD. People age 40 and older who smoke or have a history of smoking, have the greatest chance of getting the disease.
- Inhaling pollutants. Long-term exposure to things that can irritate your lungs, such as:
Certain chemicals, dust or fumes in your workplace or home
Outdoor and indoor air pollution, including coal dust and fuel, such as wood burned  for cooking and heating in poorly-ventilated homes
- Heredity. An inherited condition called alpha-1antitrypsin deficiency or AAT. AAT deficiency raises your risk for COPD, especially if you smoke. A genetic test can check for AAT deficiency and is done in people who have unexplained lung disease or in those who develop COPD at an early age.