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Living with COPD? Here Are 6 Ways to Manage Your Symptoms

Are you living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD? Then you already know how this respiratory condition changes your life. While there may not be a cure for this disease, it is possible to improve your quality of life by making specific adjustments to your lifestyle. Clinical studies have shown that these lifestyle changes not only will help you manage your symptoms, but also allow you to live the life you want.

COPD patient suffering from sudden exacerbation of his symptoms

It is possible to reduce the chronic effects of COPD by making certain changes to your lifestyle.

No. 1) Stop Smoking Immediately

The leading cause of COPD in America is smoking. If you’ve developed respiratory problems and you’re still smoking cigarettes, you need to take steps to quit immediately. We understand that discontinuing an addictive habit like this will be very difficult, but it is paramount for your health that you do it.

Talk to your doctor about it. There are probably plenty of local programs that could help you get started. Smoking cessations are very effective under these circumstances. Your doctor may also prescribe nicotine replacement therapy if withdrawal is a serious concern. Patches, inhalers and gum can be used to help wean yourself off this highly addictive substance.

In addition to tobacco smoke, you should also try to avoid other inhaled irritants whenever possible. This includes:

  • Dust particles
  • Air pollution
  • Smoke created by a fireplace or while cooking

(Would you be interested in participating in a clinical trial in Port Orange, FL? Our staff is looking to enroll individuals living with COPD today.)

No. 2) Take Steps to Reduce Your Risk of Infection

Man with COPD washes his hands carefullyThis disease will make you much more susceptible to respiratory infection. These infections can easily exacerbate your symptoms and trigger a flare-up. It’s important to take steps in order to reduce your risk of infection.

How can you do this? One of the best ways is by practicing good hand-washing hygiene. Most cold viruses are passed along via physical contact. The simple act of touching a door handle and then rubbing your eye may be all the virus needs. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly when you are out in public. Most soaps will be able to remove potentially infectious germs during your wash.

We’d also advise avoiding contact with anyone who exhibits tell tale signs of a cold or flu. On top of that, getting an annual flu shot can offer further protection.

No. 3) Maintain a Healthy Diet

In order for your body and immune system to stay strong, your diet needs to be optimized for COPD. Studies have shown that it’s fairly common for patients with advanced COPD to not get the proper nutrition. So what should someone with this respiratory illness do to improve their nutrition?

  1. Try to eat more meals throughout the day, just in smaller portions
  2. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, olive oil and whole grains in your diet
  3. Avoid eating too much processed foods, sugar or red meat
  4. Consider adding nutritional supplements to help ensure you’re getting the nutrients your body requires

Studies have shown that dietary plans like the Mediterranean diet can help reduce chronic inflammation for people living with a wide variety of medical conditions.

No. 4) Plan Ahead for Emergencies

COPD is one of the leading causes of hospitalization amongst the aging population in America. Patients should know how to identify the warning signs for a flare-up and have a plan in place to get yourself immediate medical attention if breathing becomes increasingly strained. We recommend having your primary doctor’s number memorized so that you can call if your symptoms start to flare or change.

Man suffering unexpected COPD-related flare up

Planning ahead means you can safely get medical care if you symptoms suddenly start to flare.

Here are some other ways you can stay prepared:

  • Map out the quickest route to your doctor’s office or closest hospital
  • Compile a list of family members and friends that could transport you during an emergency situation
  • Keep an updated list of current medications to give to any healthcare provider in case they need to administer emergency aid

No. 5) Don’t Ignore Your Emotional Turmoils

A disease like COPD affects every aspect of a person’s life. Patients often struggle with varying levels of stress, anxiety and depression as they learn to live with their symptoms. Individuals should not try and handle these emotions on their own. We highly recommend discussing your feelings with your doctor, family, friends and other healthcare providers.

There are medications available for chronic depression and anxiety, but we feel that one of the best ways to cope with the emotional toll of COPD is to join a support group. Nowadays, you can find groups in your local area or online. Sharing and talking to those who are dealing with the same struggles can be quite comforting and empowering.

No. 6) Get Regular Exercise

Some COPD patients use their symptoms as an excuse to not stay active. This can have a devastating effect on their condition and long-term health. Extensive research has shown that regular exercise helps patients better manage their symptoms and improves their mental/emotional condition. If it’s been a while, we recommend trying these exercises which are safe for people living with mild to moderate COPD.

There may not be a cure for COPD at this time, but there are several ways that you can take back control of your condition and your life. New medications and forms of therapy are being developed each year. By working closely with your doctor and making these lifestyle changes, you can start improving your quality of life today!

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