Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to page options Skip directly to site content

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Did You Know?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems. It includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and in some cases asthma. In the United States, tobacco use is a key factor in the development and progression of COPD, but asthma, exposure to air pollutants in the home and workplace, genetic factors, and respiratory infections also play a role.

COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. The disease kills more than 120,000 Americans each year—that's 1 death every 4 minutes—and causes serious, long-term disability. The number of people with COPD is increasing. More than 12 million people are diagnosed with COPD and an additional 12 million likely have the disease and don't even know it. Here are 4 things YOU can do to live a longer, more active life.

  • Be aware of the risk factors.
  • Recognize the symptoms.
  • Ask your doctor about a simple breathing test
  • Follow treatment advice

Four Key Risk Factors for COPD

If you …

  • have shortness of breath, chronic cough, or have trouble performing simple daily tasks like climbing stairs, grocery shopping, or laundry;
  • are over age 40 and currently smoke or used to smoke;
  • have worked or lived around dust, chemicals or fumes;
  • have certain genetic conditions

…you could be at risk for COPD.

Four Things You Can Do If You Are at Risk for COPD:

  • Talk with your healthcare provider about shortness of breath, chronic cough, or decline in activity level.
  • Get a simple breathing test, also known as spirometry.
  • Quit smoking. Need help? Talk to your doctor.
  • Avoid pollutants or fumes that can irritate your lungs.

Four Things You Can Do to Help Manage COPD:

  • Take medication as directed by your doctor.
  • Enroll in a pulmonary rehabilitation program.
  • Avoid pollutants or fumes that can irritate your lungs.
  • Get flu and pneumonia shots as directed by your doctor.

More Information

  • Page last reviewed: November 22, 2010 (archived document)
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
Top