According to the American Lung Association, 12.7 million American adults have COPD. The number one cause is smoking.
"If you've smoked any amount of cigarettes when you were younger for any amount of years, that does cause damage, but that damage isn't seen until later in life," said Tami Marderness, coordinator of Pulmonary Rehab at Good Samaritan Health System.
Even non-smokers can get COPD because of a genetic condition.
"Alpha-1 antitrypsin, it's when you're born with a deficiency of an enzyme in your lungs and it reacts the same way COPD would, but without smoking," Marderness said.
That is what happened to Danielle Reed of Hershey.
"And I was really getting quite weak pretty quickly, and I was so short of breath," Reed said. "I couldn't make it from the car into the house without having to sit down. I couldn't go to the grocery store anymore. It was very difficult completing life activities."
Doctors said the signs and symptoms usually show up long before it gets that bad, usually around age 40.
"Some people will think, as they get older, think they're getting short of breath because they're older or out of shape," said Marderness.
If that sounds like you, it may be time for a trip to the doctor. If COPD is the diagnosis, there are two things that will help you manage the disease: education and exercise.
"You need to move around. You need to keep an active life, because the less you do the more prevalent your disease comes and the more short of breath you get," Marderness said.
"Definitely a lot better. I'm back to, I used to cook and I had stopped cooking. I'm back to doing some of that. That's fun for me," said Reed.
For more information on COPD and treatment options, visit http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/copd/, http://www.copdfoundation.org/, or Http://www.gshleb.org/Main/PulmonaryRehabilitation.aspx.