Return to Index
Reducing Your Risk of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
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).
Manage Environmental Exposures
Try to avoid or limit exposure to:
- Secondhand smoke
- Biomass smoke (such as smoke from burning wood, charcoal, crop residue)
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.
Avoid Close Contact With People Who Have Respiratory Infections
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 .
Have a Blood Test to Determine Levels of Alpha-1-Antitrypsin
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.
COPD. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115557/COPD. Updated August 28, 2016. Accessed October 4, 2016.
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 24, 2014.
Learn about COPD. American Lung Association website. Available at: http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/copd/learn-about-copd. Updated July 31, 2013. Accessed February 24, 2014.
Hu G, Zhou Y, Tian J, et al. Risk of COPD from exposure to biomass smoke: a meta-analysis. Chest. 2010;138(1):20-31.
Kurmi OP, Semple S, Simkhada P, Smith WC, Ayres JG. COPD and chronic bronchitis risk of indoor air pollution from solid fuel: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Thorax. 2010;65(3):221-228.
What you can do about a lung disease called COPD. Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease website. Available at: http://www.goldcopd.org/uploads/users/files/GOLD%5FPatient%5FRevJan10.pdf. Accessed February 24, 2014.
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.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 03/2016
- Update Date: 03/15/2015