A long-term study in Canada monitored 13 million adults over the course of 14 years and found that 27% of them had been diagnosed with a form of COPD over that time. The people registered in the study were both smokers and non-smokers, but this was not taken into account during the study. Tobacco smoke was already well known to be the cause of 80% to 90% of all cases of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD, but this was left out since the main goal of the study was to see just how many people will likely develop COPD in general.
The other 10% to 20% of COPD cases overall are caused by air pollution – toxins and foreign debris flying through the air and small enough for us to breathe into our lungs. Living in an area with poor air quality for an extended period can also cause COPD, even if you have never smoked a cigarette, but this is much less likely. Because of this, we can safely assume that many of the 27% in the study who were diagnosed with COPD were smokers at some point in their lives.
Worldwide, COPD is the chronic disease that is the #4 leading cause of death in adults over the age of 35. It's estimated that 32.8 million people in the world die each year from COPD, which accounts for 5.8% of the total deaths. At the increasing rate of how many people are diagnosed with it each year, it's projected to become #3 worldwide, beating out lower respiratory infections.
Why is it such a prevalent disease and how can we change this? Organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), The World Health Organization (WHO) and The COPD Foundation are working to raise awareness about the high risk of this disease. Education about COPD is essential in its prevention and treatment. The more people know about the causes and the early warning signs; the more likely fewer people will die from it. COPD is a mostly preventable disease, so it doesn't need to become the #3 cause of death, or even stay at #4.
The use of oxygen concentrators and oxygen therapy in general, helps a great deal to improve the health and quality of life for people with advanced COPD, but it can also help the body recover from damage that has already taken place. Respiratory therapy can also help a great deal in lengthening the lives of people who already have COPD.
As for people who do not have COPD, there are ways you can see if your risk of developing COPD is high. If you have more than one close relative who has or who had any form of COPD, you will want to be checked out to see if you have any of the warning signs of the disease.
You can also significantly lower your risk of COPD by not smoking, or by quitting as soon as possible. If you have been smoking for a few years, you should be screened regularly as you age to make sure the disease will not begin to develop. If you already have been diagnosed with COPD, quitting smoking as soon as you can also increase your chance of living longer.
Information on this page is for reference and educational purposes only. For more information about COPD, talk to your doctor or primary care provider.