Living Well with COPD Management
September 27, 2019
For many people, the symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) — coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath — can be difficult to live with. But there are things you can do to make your life with COPD easier and more enjoyable. Adopting healthier lifestyle choices, adhering to your doctor’s advice and making sure your home environment doesn’t trigger your symptoms all can help reduce COPD’s impact on your daily life.
Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices
We all fall into unhealthy patterns, sometimes without realizing it. But with COPD, making a few basic lifestyle changes can help reduce the frequency and severity of your symptoms.
Stop smoking. If you’re a smoker with COPD, you’ve likely heard this advice before — but it bears repeating. Smoking is the top risk factor for COPD, and continuing to smoke only makes the disease worse. Just switching to E-cigarettes might not be a good solution. These devices don’t produce smoke, but you inhale flavorings and other chemicals when you use them. We don’t yet know what the long-term effects of these ingredients could be.
Exercise regularly. Exercise at any level can be challenging with COPD. However, staying active can help improve your blood circulation and help your body use oxygen more efficiently. Start slow, with a daily walk to the mailbox or to the end of the block. Eventually, walking 20 minutes a day could be a reasonable goal. Taking your quick-relief medication before activity can reduce the risk of breathlessness and make your exercise more enjoyable.
Eat healthy — and often. Breathing takes more work when you have COPD, so you end up burning more calories. This makes eating healthy even more important. However, large meals can cause feelings of breathlessness, so doctors recommend eating smaller meals throughout the day.
Follow Your Doctor’s Advice
Managing your medical life with COPD poses challenges. Medication schedules can be complicated, and you face a greater chance of complications from other common illnesses. As a result, you have to pay closer attention to a number of medical issues.
Understand and follow your prescriptions. COPD patients generally have a mix of long-term and fast-acting medications. Talk to your doctor to make sure you understand what each medication does and when to take it. And be sure to keep rescue medication with you all the time to handle symptoms when they arise.
Maintain your vaccinations. Pneumonia, flu and colds can cause COPD symptoms to flare. Getting the pneumonia vaccine along with annual flu shots can minimize your risk of catching these illnesses. Additionally, vaccinations against whooping cough and shingles can help protect you against two more conditions that also can cause COPD complications.
Keep your distance from germs. Colds and other common ailments can lead to serious complications when you have COPD. So, it’s important to keep your distance from others who might be sick, especially during cold season. And be sure to wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face to help yourself stay healthy all year round.
Control Your Environment
We don’t often realize it, but the air we breathe indoors isn’t always healthy. It can contain dust, allergens and other irritants. Such impurities might just cause an occasional sneeze for most — but they can cause dangerous symptom flares with COPD.
Purify your air. An indoor air purifier can help remove pet dander, pollen and other irritants. Get a model with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which can trap as much as 99 percent of symptom-causing pollutants.
Make some household changes. Wall-to-wall carpet can harbor mold, dust mites and dander. Removing it in favor of hard flooring that’s easily vacuumed can lead to easier breathing. Also, replace scented and chemical cleaning products with greener versions that won’t irritate your airways.
Avoid secondhand smoke. Breathing in someone else’s tobacco smoke can be almost as damaging as smoking itself. Avoid situations that put you in close contact with others who are smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes.