Risk Factors Of Copd You Should Not Overlook

How common is COPD?

Copd affects an estimated 24 million individuals in the U.S., and over half of them have symptoms of COPD and do not know it. Early screening can identify this disorder before major loss of lung function occurs.

 Risk factors and common causes of COPD

Most cases of COPD are caused by inhaling pollutants; that includes smoking (cigarettes, pipes, cigars, etc.), and second-hand smoke.Fumes, chemicals and dust found in many work environments are contributing factors for many individuals who develop this disorder.Genetics can also play a role in an individual’s development of this disorder—even if the person has never smoked or has ever been exposed to strong lung irritants in the workplace.

Here is more information on the top three risk factors for developing COPD:


COPD most often occurs in people 40 years of age and older who have a history of smoking. These may be individuals who are current or former smokers. While not everybody who smokes gets COPD, most of the individuals who have COPD (about 90% of them) have smoked.

Environmental Factors

COPD can also occur in those who have had long-term contact with harmful pollutants in the workplace. Some of these harmful lung irritants include certain chemicals, dust, or fumes. Heavy or long-term contact with secondhand smoke or other lung irritants in the home, such as organic cooking fuel, may also cause this disorder.

Genetic Factors

Even if an individual has never smoked or been exposed to pollutants for an extended period of time, they can still develop this disorder. Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (AATD) is the most commonly known genetic risk factor for emphysema2. Alpha-1 Antitrypsin related this disorder is caused by a deficiency of the Alpha-1 Antitrypsin protein in the bloodstream. Without the Alpha-1 Antitrypsin protein, white blood cells begin to harm the lungs and lung deterioration occurs. The World Health Organization and the American Thoracic Society recommends that every individual diagnosed with this disorder be tested for Alpha-1. For more information about AATD and how to get tested, visit the ALPHA-1 FOUNDATION WEBSITE or call 1-877-2 CURE-A1.

Because not all individuals with this disorder have AATD, and because some individuals with this disorder have never smoked, it is believed that there are other genetic predispositions to developing this disorder. Read about the this disorder GENE™ STUDY to learn about research to find other genetic causes of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

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