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Most people who are at risk for getting COPD have never even heard of it and, in many cases, don't even realize that the condition has a name. Some of the things that put you at risk for COPD include:
COPD most often occurs in people age 40 and over with a history of smoking (either current or former smokers), although as many as one out of six people with COPD never smoked. Smoking is the most common cause of COPD—it accounts for as many as eight out of ten COPD-related deaths.
COPD can also occur in people who have had long-term exposure to things that can irritate your lungs, like certain chemicals, dust, or fumes in the workplace. Heavy or long-term exposure to secondhand smoke or other air pollutants may also contribute to COPD.
In some people, COPD is caused by a genetic condition known as alpha-1 antitrypsin, or AAT, deficiency. While very few people know they have AAT deficiency, it is estimated that close to 100,000 Americans have it. People with AAT deficiency can get COPD even if they have never smoked or had long-term exposure to harmful pollutants.
For additional information on COPD, visit the NHLBI's Diseases and Conditions Index, Medline Plus, or the American Lung Association's COPD information section.