10 Tips for Healthy Living With COPD
Strategies for COPD Management
Living with a lung condition like COPD can be difficult, but you can take practical steps to help you better manage COPD symptoms. "Both non-medical and medical therapies can improve the lives of COPD patients," says David Mannino, MD, a pulmonologist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health in Lexington and director of the college's Pulmonary Epidemiology Research Laboratory. Start with small changes. Try sitting down as you do daily tasks like preparing meals and folding laundry. Arrange objects in your home so they are easy to reach, and move slowly to reserve your lung capacity. Here are 10 more things you can do.
If you smoke, quitting is one of the best ways to manage COPD and prevent COPD symptoms from worsening. Although you can't cure COPD, you can stop contributing to the lung damage caused by cigarette smoke. Quitting smoking will help you breathe easier and feel better, not to mention improve your overall health and lower your risk of other health problems like lung cancer and heart disease.
Learn Breathing Exercises
Pulmonary rehabilitation for COPD is an important part of treatment because it helps you better manage COPD symptoms. Pulmonary rehabilitation involves learning exercises to help you catch your breath when you're having trouble breathing. You'll also learn the best ways to stand and sit, inhale and exhale, and how to get control of your breathing when you find that you're struggling to take in air. Your doctor can suggest the best type of pulmonary rehabilitation program for your needs.
Eating a healthy diet may not reverse damage to your lungs or improve lung function impaired by COPD, but good nutrition is nonetheless an important part of managing lung disease. "Healthy eating in general is very important," says Daniel Culver, DO, staff physician in the department of pulmonary, allergy, and critical care medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. If you're not sure where to start, talk to you doctor about how to eat a well-balanced and varied diet.
Regular exercise is another important part of COPD treatment. Exercise four to five days a week for at least 20 to 30 minutes at a time to help you stay healthy and manage COPD symptoms, recommends Dr. Culver. This can be done in pulmonary rehabilitation for lung disease or at home with informal exercises to help strengthen your muscles and improve breathing.
Struggling to breathe, a common COPD symptom, can leave you feeling fatigued due to a lack of oxygen. Getting plenty of sleep each night benefits people with COPD in many ways. Restorative sleep can help you maintain a healthy body weight, improve your mood, ward off cardiovascular problems, and keep your immune system better equipped to fight off infections.
Learn More About COPD
Because COPD is a chronic condition, it's important to learn as much as you can to improve your health and ease your symptoms. The more you understand about COPD, the more tools you'll have to be able to live well with the condition. Be aware of any triggers that make your COPD symptoms worse, like irritating fumes and overly strenuous exercise that cause you to feel short of breath, and avoid these whenever possible.
Get Support From Family and Friends
When you have COPD, you may not be able to do all the usual daily activities of living on your own, so family and friends are a valuable resource. Family members and loved ones need to be supportive at all times, says Culver, especially if part of your COPD treatment involves oxygen therapy. Portable oxygen can be difficult to deal with in public since it's a visible sign of the condition — the assistance of loved ones can be an enormous help.
Avoid Irritating Your Lungs
Getting sick, whether with a common cold or the flu, can aggravate COPD and worsen your lung condition. Respiratory infections that cause congestion, coughing, and difficulty breathing are more serious when you have COPD, so be sure to wash your hands often and avoid any contact with people who are sick to limit your exposure to germs. You should also avoid being around harsh, irritating fumes and any type of smoke to spare your lungs from further irritation.
Keep Intimacy Alive
It's important for COPD patients to live life to the fullest, says Mannino, and that includes enjoying relationships, intimacy, and sex. You don't have to put your sex life on hold because of your COPD symptoms. Exercise can keep you fit and make other physical activity, including sex, easier and more enjoyable. Regularly taking your prescribed COPD medication can also help keep symptoms under control so that you can enjoy sex, rather than avoiding it because of your condition.
Work With Your Doctor
The key to managing COPD is to continually work with your doctor and discuss any changes in your health so that you can keep symptoms to a minimum. Your doctor can help you find the most effective COPD treatment, including the right exercise and diet program, pulmonary rehabilitation, and medications.
Video: Living with COPD
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