What Is COPD? Chris Ayres, 'Dragon Ball' Frieza Voice Actor, Dies Aged 56

Chris Ayres, the voice actor who played the villain Frieza in the popular anime franchise Dragon Ball, died on Monday at the age of 56 after struggling for several years with a condition known as COPD.

The voice actor's death was confirmed by his girlfriend Krystal LaPorte on Tuesday in a statement posted to Twitter.

"On October 18th at 8:40pm, my world went dark. Christopher Owen Ayres passed away peacefully, held close by his mother, brother and girlfriend, and his arm wrapped around his Atticus pillow," LaPorte said in the statement.

But what is COPD, an acronym which stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease?

The term COPD refers to a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.)

COPD includes conditions such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema—Ayres had been diagnosed with the latter, for example.

Around 16 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with COPD, but many more may be suffering from the condition without knowing it, according to the CDC.

COPD can make breathing difficult, with symptoms of the disease including frequent coughing or wheezing, excess phlegm, mucus or sputum production, shortness of breath or trouble taking a deep breath.

The disease was the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States in 2018, according to the CDC.

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— Krystal LaPorte (@WowSuchKrystal) October 19, 2021

Some groups are more likely to be diagnosed with COPD, including—according to the CDC which identified the following in 2013—women, people aged 65 and over, Native Americans and multiracial non-Hispanics as well as people who are unemployed, retired, or unable to work, people with less than a high school education, people who are divorced, widowed, or separated; current or former smokers; and people with a history of asthma.

In the United States, exposure to tobacco smoke is an important factor in the development and progression of COPD. Exposure to air pollutants, genetic factors, and previous respiratory infections also play a role in the development of the disease.

The CDC recommends that people try and avoid inhaling tobacco smoke and air pollutants where possible in order to reduce the risk of developing COPD.

While there is no cure for COPD, there are treatments available that can alleviate symptoms and help patients manage their condition. Detecting and treating COPD early increases the chances that the disease's progression can be slowed and that the patient can have a good quality of life for as long as possible.

In Ayres' case, the voice actor had been diagnosed with emphysema—a disease characterized by the gradual damage of lung tissue, specifically, destruction of tiny air sacs known as alveoli.

Over time, the destruction of these tiny air sacs leads to the development of one big air pocket in the lung. The reduction of lung surface area prevents oxygen from moving through the bloodstream.

Voice actor Chris Ayres
Producer Justin Cook and voice actor Chris Ayres (right) attend the Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F' San Diego Comic Con opening night VIP party on July 9, 2015 in San Diego, California. Ayres passed away on Monday after a long struggle with COPD.