Nearly all cases of COPD can be prevented. Practice these preventive measures to reduce your risk of developing COPD.

Don’t Smoke Cigarettes

Between 80%-90% of COPD cases are caused by cigarette smoking. Never smoking or quitting if you already smoke is the single most important step you can take to reduce your risk of developing COPD. This preventive measure is particularly important if you have family members who developed COPD at a young age (in their thirties or forties).

Avoid Exposure to Environmental Irritants

Avoid exposure to dust and fumes and all contact with second-hand cigarette smoke. Be aware of air pollution alerts, and avoid outdoor activities when air quality is particularly poor. If you exercise, avoid doing so in areas where levels of car exhaust are high.

Avoid Close Contact With People Who Have Respiratory Infections

Repeated lower respiratory infections, pneumonia and bronchitis , particularly in young children, can produce scarring that contributes to the development of COPD. Whenever possible, try to avoid close contact with people who have contagious respiratory infections. Get a pneumonia vaccination and yearly flu shots .

Have a Blood Test to Determine Levels of Alpha-1-Antitrypsin

If someone in your family developed COPD but never smoked or developed the disease at an early age, you may have a genetic defect that increases your risk of the disease. You should consider having a blood test to measure levels of alpha-1-antitrypsin, which is an important protein that helps protect the lungs from damage due to inflammation. Low levels of this protein increase your risk of developing COPD and should be discussed with your healthcare provider.