The Best Places to Live with COPD

Quincy AdamCOPD Lifestyle

Where are the best places for you to live if you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)? Can your location really make a difference? Here are a few answers.

Several organizations, websites and medical institutions have conducted studies to determine some of the best and worst places you should live with COPD. Their analyses are typically based on climate, allergens, pollution, altitude and access to medical care.

In 2007, COPD Digest published its list of the top five best places to live with COPD1 (with number 1 being the best):

  1. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  2. Naples, Florida
  3. Fort Smith, Arkansas
  4. Amarillo, Texas
  5. Fayetteville, Arkansas

More recently (December 2014), the Lung Institute produced a list of the five best cities to live with COPD and the five worst cities2:

BEST CITIES (Number 1 is the best)

  1. St. George, Utah
  2. Cheyenne, Wyoming
  3. Naples, Florida
  4. Prescott, Arizona
  5. Fayetteville, Arkansas

So, Naples, Florida and Fayetteville, Arkansas both have the honor of being listed in the two studies.

WORST CITIES (Number 1 is the worst)

  1. Louisville, Kentucky
  2. Bakersfield, California
  3. Fresno, California
  4. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  5. Birmingham, Alabama

Is Your Hometown One of the Best Places to Live with COPD?

The problem with lists like those above is that most of us don’t live in those cities. Others may have jobs keeping us tethered to other locations and can’t just pick up and move. So, if you don’t live in one of the designated best places to live with COPD, you need to assess your own location. And if your current locality is less than ideal, consider other places nearby. For example, a relatively simple solution may be to get away from a severe lung irritant. Consider the following:

  • If you live or work in a major city, is it possible to move outside the city where there may be less traffic and industrial pollution? If you live outside but work in the city, can you work at home a couple of days each week?
  • If you reside in a rural community and find that pollen and dust are problems, maybe you should consider moving to a suburban area—a possible compromise between the rural and city lung irritants.

Conduct Your Own Survey

If you are thinking of moving to somewhere more COPD friendly, here are some considerations:

  • Climate—Extreme temperature can shock your lungs. So choose an environment that’s not too cold or too hot and humid.
  • Pollen—Pollen is an irritant that may increase flare-ups and worse.3 Try to find an area where pollen counts are low.
  • Smoking—Not only is smoking the number one cause of COPD, but it is also the primary irritant. As second-hand smoke can also irritate lungs, you may want to live in a community with strict smoking ordinances.
  • Air Pollution—Because both industrial and traffic pollution can make breathing more difficult for COPD patients, you may want to consider living outside of large cities.
  • Altitude—The higher the altitude, the thinner the air.5Although the percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere is the same at sea level as it is in the Mile High City of Denver, the air is more compressed at sea level. In other words, there are more molecules in dense air, and that means more oxygen to breathe. If you have COPD, living closer to sea level is better. Sea level often also means clean, fresh sea air.
  • Medical Care—Because COPD is a chronic and progressive disease, ongoing medical attention is necessary. Choose a community with excellent

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States.6 So, weigh your options carefully when considering the best places to live with COPD.

1 COPD Digest. Top 5 Places to Live with COPD. Accessed Lung Institute. Best and Worst Places to Live with COPD. Accessed 7.23.16.

3 Paula Moyer, “More Serious Than Sneezing? High Pollen Linked to Death,” WebMD Health News, (April 2000).

NIH. What Causes COPD. Accessed 7.23.16.

5 Living in Thin Air. Accessed 7.23.16.

6 CDC. National Vital Statistics Report. Accessed 7.23.16.