If you’re currently a smoker, the most important thing you can do to slow the progression of your COPD is to quit smoking now! Smoking can cause your COPD to worsen more quickly than if you were to stop smoking. It’s also important for your environment to be smoke-free. This means you should avoid being in the company of other people who smoke.
As we age, even healthy lungs lose some function. This graph shows that smokers who get COPD lose lung function at a much faster rate. People who have frequent flare-ups (red line) lose lung function faster, too.
Quitting Smoking is the most important thing you can do to actually slow down the loss of lung function. While you cannot return lung function to normal after quitting smoking, you will slow the progression of your COPD (dotted blue lines). If you have already quit smoking, congratulations!
"Susceptible Smokers" are individuals whose lungs are significantly damaged by smoking and develop COPD. Their lung function starts to go down at a very early age. Even at ages 35 to 45, lung function begins to decline. This group is just starting to have symptoms of COPD like chronic cough or mild shortness of breath with heavy work or exercise. These early signs of COPD are often ignored because they are mild. If this age group stops smoking, they may avoid developing significant COPD.
Some people in the “Susceptible Smoker” group have a severe decline in lung function because of multiple hits. These include smoking, breathing hazards in the air, other medical problems or Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (genetic COPD). Frequent flare-ups / exacerbations also cause a faster rate of lung function loss.These individuals have severe disease earlier in life.
Not taking care of COPD often leads to multiple exacerbations and a faster decline in lung function in the last couple years of life.
There are many options available to help you quit smoking. Options include gums, patches, and prescription medicine among others. You can find more information from the U.S. Government about the steps you can take to quit smoking by visiting the Smokefree.gov website.
You can also visit Smoking in America for additional information on how to quit smoking and the impact of cigarette smoking in America.
Join the COPD Foundation online community, COPD360social and join the many active discussions on the topic of quitting smoking.