Living With COPD
Medically Edited and Reviewed by Dr. Erin Zinkhan MD, BSBE
LIVING WITH COPD
More than 12 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD. COPD is a chronic process of airway blockage due to collapsing of the airways or plugging of the airways with mucus. This airway blockage makes it hard to breathe. There is no cure for COPD, but medications and lifestyle changes can help you live a longer, healthier life with COPD.
When it comes to maintaining an active and fulfilling life, sometimes even little changes help, such as doing tasks while sitting down, wearing loose or less constrictive clothing, arranging objects in your home so that they are within easy reach, and not moving too quickly. Of course, bigger changes will make a greater impact on your life. Read on as we highlight some of the things you can do to help you manage your COPD more effectively.
A healthy diet and sufficient exercise are extremely important. What you choose to eat and how often you exercise make a big difference on your life. By choosing to eat a healthy, balanced diet and striving to exercise on a regular basis, you will notice an increase in your fitness levels. Of course, we know physical activity with COPD isn't easy, so start small. Building and maintaining muscle by lifting cans of vegetables, for instance, is an easy and inexpensive way to get some exercise. When you're done lifting, don't forget about eating the contents. People with COPD need to eat a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. It is important to limit salt intake. Salt can increase the buildup of fluid in the body and in the lungs and make it harder to breathe. Also, to decrease feeling short of breath, eat small, frequent meals, and drink plenty of water.
Eating a healthy diet and exercising can help manage your weight. People with COPD who are overweight often have an even more difficult time breathing than those who have a normal weight. Individuals with COPD may have trouble gaining or maintaining weight due to how much energy they use just by trying to breathe. While some amount of weight loss is beneficial in people with COPD who are overweight, it is important to maintain good nutrition.
Another way to maintain your weight is to get at least 7 hours of quality sleep every night. There is a large correlation between your weight and your sleep patterns. In addition to better breathing, a regular, consistent sleep pattern can also help your mental clarity and your mood, help regulate your cardiovascular system, and help maintain a strong immunity. All these benefits can help you lead a better life with COPD.
Finally, if you smoke, quit. Quitting smoking, as hard as it may be, will have a huge impact on your quality of life with COPD. Smoking is one of the leading causes of COPD, and while quitting will not cure your COPD, it will improve your quality of life and help you live longer. There are many helpful ways to quit, including medications and group therapy. If you need help choosing the best method for you, talk to your doctor.
GETTING EQUIPPED WITH THE PROPER TOOLS
Naturally, getting treated with the right medication is a crucial part of managing your COPD. Whether you're managing daily or only occasional breathing problems, you'll want to talk to a healthcare professional about the treatment that is right for you. Below, we will highlight some of the most popular and effective treatments that are available.
Cough Assist Devices
Mucus can block the flow of air in the lungs. The buildup of mucus in the lungs not only makes breathing difficult, but it also increases the risk of pulmonary infections. Cough assist devices, such as flutter valves and acapella flutter valves help manage the accumulation of mucus by clearing the lungs and airways of secretions. Both of these devices are small enough to fit in a purse or backpack, so you can take them with you anywhere you go. For stronger, at-home bronchial respiratory therapy, the Cough Assist T70 from Respironics is a great, non-invasive option.
Another device that can be very beneficial in the treatment of COPD is a nebulizer compressor. Much like an asthma inhaler, nebulizer compressors distribute a fine mist of aerosol medication into the lungs to help facilitate breathing. Nebulizer compressors are available in either electric stationary units or battery-powered portable versions.
Oxygen concentrators or oxygen generators are one of the best ways to provide reliable and cost-effective oxygen support for individuals with COPD. Available in either portable or stationary at-home models, personal oxygen concentrators pull in the air from the room and filter out gases other than oxygen, then deliver pure, concentrated medical oxygen. Not to be confused with oxygen tanks that are heavy and only have a limited amount of oxygen, concentrators provide users with continuous, 24/7 oxygen. Your doctor will indicate the amount of oxygen you need when they prescribe your oxygen treatment.
The biggest key to living with COPD is getting the right support and being well-informed. Stay in touch with your healthcare provider and don't hesitate to reach out to those around you.
Diet recommendations for COPD patients blog: https://www.everydayhealth.com/copd/a-copd-diet.aspx