What are the best places to live if you have mild emphysema?

John d asked...

I am a retired forestry firefighter with moderate emphysema. What are the best states to live in with this condition?

Expert Answer

Loutfi S. Aboussouan is a staff physician for the Cleveland Clinic's Respiratory Institute and Neurological Institute. He is board certified in internal medicine, pulmonary disease, critical care medicine, and sleep medicine and directs the pulmonary curriculum for the second-year class of the Cleveland Clinic Lerner School of Medicine.

There are several things to consider when a decision to move depends in part on a diagnosis of emphysema. The most important of which is that everybody is different. Therefore, the answer to the best place to live with emphysema can and should be individualized. Much depends on what worsens your emphysema symptoms. Also, if possible, try to visit the area you plan to move to for an extended period before you make your decision. A few more things to consider:

Humidity, heat, cold air, strong winds, and extremes of weather or temperature can all worsen emphysema. For this reason, the South-Western United States have been often promoted in the past for patients with various lung diseases including emphysema, asthma, and tuberculosis. However, there is no research confirming that notion. Depending on your emphysema triggers, I do no think you should be limited to those options.

Air pollution is a major factor to consider since pollution is recognized as a significant cause of flares of emphysema. If you are prone to those exacerbations, then I would make sure you avoid areas with pollution, include areas in the South-Western United States.

Altitude. Higher altitudes can be difficult for patients with emphysema who have a low oxygen level.

Finally, perhaps the most important is to balance friends and family. Having a good social network will help you stay active, which I would value above avoiding bad climate.