Unlike some diseases, COPD has a clear cause and a clear path of prevention. The vast majority of cases are directly related to cigarette smoking, and the best way to prevent COPD is to never smoke — or to stop smoking.

If you're a longtime smoker, these simple statements may not seem so simple, especially if you've tried quitting — once, twice or many times before. But, keep trying. It's critical to find a tobacco cessation program that can help you quit for good. It's your best chance for preventing damage to your lungs.

Occupational exposure to chemical fumes and dust is another risk factor for COPD. If you work with this type of lung irritant, talk to your supervisor about the best ways to protect yourself, such as using respiratory protective equipment.