There are more than 65 million people worldwide living with COPD today.
In the United States, it's the third leading cause of death, with around 16 million Americans currently suffering from it. Experts believe that millions more may also be suffering from COPD and have yet to be diagnosed.
If you or a loved one is living with COPD, you might think that your options for managing your symptoms are limited. After all, there is no known cure for the condition.
But there are plenty of ways to treat and manage the symptoms of COPD. Keep reading to learn 7 simple tips that can make a big difference in your health and quality of life.
1. Protect Your Health
Normal, everyday illnesses like colds or the seasonal flu, may leave a healthy individual feeling tired and achy. But for a person living with COPD, even a minor illness or infection can cause a serious flare-up of their COPD.
A COPD flare-up, also called exacerbations, can increase the severity of typical COPD symptoms like shortness of breath or coughing. You may struggle to catch your breath or experience severe coughing fits that make it difficult to catch your breath again.
Protecting your health as much as possible can help you avoid common ailments that could worsen your COPD symptoms.
Getting vaccinated against the flu every year is a good start. Vaccines against pneumonia and whooping cough are also good ideas for those suffering from COPD or other respiratory conditions.
Besides getting vaccinated, keeping yourself healthy in other ways can also help prevent flare-ups. Steer clear of others who may be sick, and make sure that your family and friends know how dangerous it could be for you if you were to catch an illness from them.
2. Regular Breathing Exercises
Strengthening your lungs and conserving air as much as possible is important if you want to learn how to manage COPD. One way to do this is with regular breathing exercises.
Diaphragmatic or pursed lip breathing are two such exercises.
For pursed lip breathing, purse your lips and slowly breath out, trying to empty as much air from your lungs as possible. Then, breathe in with your lips still pursed, trying to expand your lungs as far as they'll go.
For diaphragmatic breathing, place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest. Breathing in through your nose, you should feel your stomach pushing outward. When your lungs are full, press lightly on your stomach as you breathe slowly out your mouth through pursed lips.
3. Stop Smoking
It's no secret that smoking can cause COPD. Not all patients who suffer from COPD smoke. But smoking is known to worsen the symptoms of COPD.
In fact, 8 out of every 10 COPD-related deaths are caused by smoking.
If you have been diagnosed with COPD and are still smoking, it's time to work on stopping. This is perhaps the most important tip you could follow if you want to learn how to live with COPD.
4. Eat Smaller Meals
Eating until you are overly full can leave even a healthy person feeling out of breath. For those living with COPD, this feeling may be exasperated.
To help manage this symptom, trying eating smaller meals.
Rather than 2 or 3 larger meals, you might eat 5 or 6 small meals, or a few small meals with a mix of snacks, instead. This will help keep you satisfied without ever making you feel overly full.
This doesn't mean that you can't indulge in your favorite foods. Instead, just eat smaller portions of those dishes.
5. Get in Shape
Just as feeling overly full can leave you feeling breathless, carrying extra weight can also put a strain on your breathing.
Getting in shape or staying in shape can help you manage your COPD symptoms. Eating a well-balanced diet and getting regular exercise will not only help you reach or maintain a healthy weight but can also help increase circulation.
While being overweight can worsen COPD symptoms, so can being underweight. When you're underweight, your body might not be getting the nutrients you need to produce energy to power through your day.
Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet and making sure you get the vitamins and nutrients you need, is important.
6. Keep an Open Dialogue with Your Doctor
Sometimes patients with any form of chronic illness are afraid to be open with their doctor about their symptoms.
When numerous treatments have already been prescribed with no change in your symptoms, you might worry that your doctor won't believe you. Or you may feel as though there is nothing your doctor can do to help.
But it's important to keep an open dialogue with your doctor about your condition. Talk with him or her about any changes in your condition.
When you feel comfortable communicating with your doctor, you'll be less likely to downplay your symptoms.
7. Relax and Reduce Stress
Stress can exasperate the symptoms of any chronic illness, including COPD.
While living with COPD can be a burden, the last thing you want to do is dwell on it or stress about your situation. Instead, it's important to relax and reduce stress as much as possible.
Exercise and healthy eating can help with this. So can getting a full night's sleep and taking time each day to do things you enjoy, like reading a book or taking your dog for a walk.
Living with COPD
Living with COPD is never easy. But there are plenty of ways that you can manage your symptoms to help make your day-to-day life more comfortable.
Protecting your health, practicing breathing exercises, quitting your smoking habit, reducing stress, and following the other tips on this list are all a great start.
Managing your COPD symptoms with medication is also important. If you're currently taking a medication for your COPD orally, there is an alternative.
A nebulizer can turn your COPD medication into a mist, making it easier to take and allowing it to get to your lungs and provide the relief you need.