Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is an umbrella term for progressive lung diseases, primarily chronic bronchitis and emphysema — conditions that make breathing increasingly difficult. Most COPD sufferers have bronchitis and emphysema simultaneously.
The disease occurs primarily in current or former smokers over the age of 40. Long-term exposure to secondhand smoke or other pollutants in the air may also trigger COPD, and there is a genetic condition called AAT (alpha-1 antitrypsin) deficiency that can trigger the disease even in those without other risk factors.
COPD is distinct from asthma, though there is overlap between the two diseases, and researchers have begun to reevaluate the concept of asthma and COPD as separate conditions. It has also been found that children who suffer from asthma are at possible increased risk of developing COPD in early adulthood.
According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 16 million Americans suffer from COPD, and it is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, claiming about 150,000 lives each year — about 90% of the victims having been smokers.
There is no known cure for COPD, and it is a progressive disease, meaning that it worsens over time, and may be fatal. The good news is that it develops slowly, and while there is no way to stop it from worsening, there are a number of ways to impede its progress.
To identify 12 ways to slow the progression of COPD, 24/7 Wall St. consulted the websites of the National Institutes of Health and in particular the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the Cleveland Clinic; the COPD Foundation; the Lung Institute; and COPD.net. Additional information about the disease came from the websites of the National Center for Biotechnology Information and The New England Journal of Medicine.