Are you at risk for COPD?
If you have a hacking cough and breathlessness, don’t chalk it up to aging.
Maybe you never smoked, or you stopped decades ago. But you may still be at risk for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). That’s the umbrella term for a number of lung diseases that sometimes lead to disability and even death. “While about 80% of COPD cases are related to having smoked, 20% are not,” says Dr. Bartolome Celli, a pulmonologist with Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Diseases and symptoms
COPD includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis, severe asthma, or a combination of these conditions. They cause inflammation, destruction, or abnormal repair of airways and lung tissue, which reduces airflow and ultimately makes it harder to take in enough oxygen to supply the body.
Other than smoking, causes of COPD include poorly controlled asthma; abnormal lung development; and air pollution, such as exposure to secondhand smoke or to fumes, chemicals, or dust in work environments.