5 Practical Tips for Managing COPD Symptoms
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung condition that afflicts millions of Americans. It’s characterized by a chronic cough, wheezing, and persistent breathlessness — all of which can make day-to-day life very challenging. Since COPD is contracted after years of exposure to harmful airborne pollutants like pollution and cigarette smoke, it’s much more common in old age.
Whether you or your loved one has COPD, finding effective treatment is imperative. Maybe you’ve already met with a pulmonologist and put together a dietary plan or you’ve been prescribed medical oxygen, or maybe you don’t have a treatment plan yet. Either way, if you’re looking for things to do at home to alleviate symptoms, you’re not alone. With a few simple steps, you’ll be able to experience relief from your symptoms and live a more fulfilling life.
Did you know that smoking accounts for around 80 percent of COPD cases?
If that’s not bad enough, you’ll be surprised to know that many people who have COPD still smoke! Cigarette smoke has a far greater reach than simply damaging the lungs, it also weakens your immune system making you more susceptible to infection and acute illness. For someone with severe stage 3 or stage 4 COPD, this could lead to a life-threatening exacerbation.
While it’s not easy to quit smoking, it is the best way to alleviate COPD symptoms. If you’re having trouble, just remember that there are ample resources available to help you quit. Start by speaking with a family member, friend, or doctor. And if you’re interested, there are also some great online support communities you can join like the American Lung Association.
The importance of exercise is overlooked far too often when it comes to COPD treatment.
Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that any bit of exercise they can muster will improve lung function and allow them to breathe easier. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should try to overexert yourself; exercising too much could be damaging to your lungs and result in an exacerbation.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is a training program specifically designed for people with respiratory ailments. When you enter into one of these programs, you’ll be taught by a professional how to exercise effectively and safely, while also learning more about how your lungs work. Many pulmonary rehabilitation programs will also teach you about breathing exercises that you can do at home.
Refine Your Diet
Your diet and lung health are connected in many different ways.
First and foremost, they’re connected through the process of cellular respiration. Whenever you inhale, oxygen enters the lungs and is transferred to the blood through the alveoli, tiny air sacs in the lungs. Once oxygen is in the blood, it helps to break down the food you eat into usable energy through a process called metabolism. Your body needs certain nutrients to make this process as efficient as possible.
According to the American Lung Association, metabolizing carbohydrates produces the most carbon dioxide byproduct while metabolizing fat produces the least, meaning certain foods will help you breathe easier with less waste. As such, your pulmonologist may advise you to follow a diet that’s high in healthy fats. There are a whole slew of other guidelines for COPD patients, so be sure to research them and make a meal plan that follows them as closely as possible.
Follow Your Treatment Plan
If your doctor has already worked with you to create a treatment plan, it’s in your best interest to follow it as closely as possible.
Remember that each case of COPD is unique and what works for one person may not be ideal for you. Your doctor may prescribe you certain medication like bronchodilators or corticosteroids, medical oxygen, or any other number of treatment options. If you have questions about anything, be sure to address them immediately rather than waiting for symptoms to progress.
Consider Assisted Living
The environment that you live in can have a huge impact on your ability to manage your COPD symptoms.
Living in a dirty and cluttered home can cause stress and put more strain on your respiratory system. And being in a polluted city or being exposed to other airborne allergens can lead to more frequent and severe exacerbations. While you can do your own cleaning or have a loved one help, hiring a caregiver or finding senior home is often the best option. For help finding senior housing or cae in your area, call 888-WE-ASSIST or visit AlternativesforSeniors.com.
Although COPD is a serious respiratory illness, its symptoms can be reduced significantly by following the tips listed above. In general, the more educated you are about how the lungs work, the better equipped you will be to deal with any complications you may be facing. Sites like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the COPD Foundation, and the American Lung Association are all great resources if you need further assistance.
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