COPD is a lung disease common in elderly individuals. It can make it extremely difficult to breathe, making exercise or even just walking short distances difficult and taxing for the elderly. However, there are some things you can do to avoid developing this disease. Learn more about COPD and the factors that contribute to its development.
What Is COPD?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a serious lung disease which over time makes it hard to breathe. According to statistical data, it is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. More than 12 millions people are diagnosed with the disease, and estimates are that an additional 12 million may have it and not even know it.
Symptoms include constant coughing, shortness of breath while performing daily activities, the inability to take a deep breath, and wheezing. COPD develops slowly and can worsen over time. Because of the slow nature of the disease in its early stages, it may be difficult to detect at first. This makes it even more essential to understand the risk factors that can lead to COPD.
What Are the Most Common Contributing Factors?
Smoking is the most common cause of COPD and accounts for 9 out of 10 COPD-related deaths. Tobacco smoke causes the alveoli to thicken and eventually degrades the walls between individual air sacs. Smoking also causes a thickening and inflammation of the bronchi (the tube that air uses to travel to your lungs). Tobacco also cause a buildup of mucus in the bronchi, further causing them to narrow. Smokers should be aware that this behavior is a major factor for the development of COPD.
2. Environmental Exposure
People who have long-term exposure to certain chemicals, dust, or fumes that irritate lungs are at a higher-risk of COPD. Also, those exposed to second-hand smoke or other pollutants are affected.
Specific chemicals causing COPD include the following:
- Coal dust;
- Agricultural dust (particularly those associated with pigs)
- Cotton textile dust
- Welding fumes
- Flour mill dust
- Bakers working with ingredients they have an allergy to
3. Genetic Factors
In some people, COPD is caused by a genetic condition known as AAT deficiency. In this segment of the population, people can develop COPD even if they have never been exposed to harmful pollutants.
Most people do not experience symptoms of COPD until they are over 35. If you are over 35, however, you are at a higher risk of developing COPD.
If you have any of the symptoms or risk factors listed, it is important to take action to prevent or slow the progression of COPD. If you are a smoker, it is best to stop smoking to prevent more damage to your lungs. If at all possible, limit your exposure to harmful pollutants. And most importantly, talk with your doctor for help.
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