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 pneumonia vaccination if you are 65 years or older, or have risk factors for pneumonia. Make sure you get yearly flu shots.
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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Last reviewed February 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP Last Updated: 3/15/2015