If you suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, you’re certainly not alone. The American Lung Association estimates that as of 2011, over 12.7 million adults in America have been diagnosed with this condition. Yet that might not even begin to approximate the impact that COPD has. In fact, it’s believed that another 12 million people suffer from conditions linked to COPD. It’s little wonder then as to why COPD is said to be the third most common cause of death in the United States.

However, if you’ve been diagnosed with COPD, you’re not automatically doomed to end up as another statistic. Through lifestyle changes such as improving your diet and exercise habits, as well as pulmonary rehabilitation performed with the help of your doctor, you can manage its symptoms. You do have to remain vigilant, however, against the threat of COPD exacerbation.

The Dangers of COPD Exacerbation

A COPD exacerbation is a sudden worsening of your condition; you might hear people refer to it as a “flare-up.” These are often caused by infections in the lungs that come as the result of pneumonia or a cold. However, certain external factors can also exacerbate your COPD. These include:

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Indoor and outdoor air pollution
  • Airborne allergens
  • Extreme humidity

The initial symptoms of an exacerbation may be similar to those of a severe cold. However, if left untreated, an episode of COPD exacerbation can result in permanent lung damage. This could ultimately require you to rely upon the assistance of a respirator or ventilator in order to breathe normally for the remainder of your life.

Knowing Your Environment

Knowing this, it’s important that you take whatever steps are needed in order to avoid the conditions that can trigger a COPD flare-up. This requires understanding the challenges that the area that you live in can present to your condition. Numerous factors relative to a state’s population, climate, and its demographics can contribute to it either increasing your risks of COPD-related issues or offering you support in your continuing struggle against this condition. With this in mind, here is a list of the best and worst states to live in if you have COPD.

The Worst States

If you’re like most, you tend to like to hear the bad news first. Thus, this list begins with the state to which the incidence rate of COPD in the U.S. is attributed: Kentucky. The Bluegrass State is known for just that: bluegrass. Yet for all of the beauty that the sprawling meadows of Kentucky bluegrass provide, they also present an unwelcome byproduct: allergens. Louisville also routinely ranks among the most polluted cities in the country. Plus, the extreme temperature changes that accompany the seasons can also trigger COPD problems.

Pennsylvania has the reputation of being a blue-collar state mixed in amongst the many elitists of the American Northeast. Indeed, once you leave Philadelphia, you’re soon inundated with scenes of mine and steel factory towns and communities. It’s no coincidence that Pittsburgh is referred to as “The Steel City.” With these many mines, plants, and factories comes poor air quality. Pennsylvania’s air is among the most polluted in the country, which comes as unwelcome news for COPD sufferers.

Yet for all of the cases of COPD in Kentucky and Pennsylvania, the medical communities in both of these states have taken measures to combat the disease. Each has a large number of rehabilitation centers and hospital departments devoted to the treatment of COPD, giving local patients a resource that they can turn to for assistance. The same cannot be said for Alabama, which also ranks among the poorest states for COPD patients. The state is a strange mix or vast stretches of rural area with tiny plots of urban sprawl scattered within. Because Alabama’s major metropolitan areas are relatively small yet still have large populations, air pollution is common. Plus, as was mentioned earlier, the area doesn’t offer a large number of treatment outlets for COPD patients.

Genetics has been listed as a contributing factor to the development of COPD. Perhaps nowhere is there better proof as to the validity of this claim than in the Southeast. The incidence rate here is higher than anywhere else in the country. Yet this isn’t to say that there aren’t random areas throughout the rest of the U.S. that are bad for COPD patients. Take California, for instance. While Los Angeles has a reputation for having extremely poor air quality, it’s the northern part of the state that poses so many problems to COPD patients. Concentrated air pollution in cities such as Bakersfield and Fresno make these areas that can cause havoc with your COPD. Plus, California’s Mediterranean-style climate ensures that pollution lingers in the air throughout the year.

The Best States

Yet it wouldn’t be fair to list the worst states for COPD without mentioning some of the best. Arizona, Utah, and Wyoming, with their dry desert climates, are said to be ideal areas for those suffering from COPD. It should come as no surprise that cities in these states often rank among those having the best air in the country.

While it’s true that the states of the American Southeast have the highest incidence rates of COPD, there are certain areas in this region that have taken steps to reduce the effects that their cities have on people suffering from respiratory problems such as COPD. Arkansas and Florida are chief among these. In fact, many in the medical community list Fayetteville as perhaps the best city in the country for COPD patients, given its combination of clean air as well as a large number of treatment facilities. Florida, with its heavy population of seniors, has also drawn praise for its recent efforts in attempting to clean up its local environment.

While the information mentioned above should in no way be taken as a call for you to pack up and move, it can help you in your attempt to manage your COPD. Despite the seemingly fatalistic numbers that accompany this disease, people who suffer from it can continue to lead productive lives, provided that they’re willing to take the appropriate steps to control it. If you happen to live in one of those states mentioned as being poor for COPD sufferers, you may want to speak to your doctor about how to best mitigate the risks that your area’s climate or demographics pose. Should you live in one of the states that see a decreased incidence of this disease, then what are you doing inside? Get out there and enjoy yourself!