COPD: Tips for Managing Symptoms and Improving Your Lifestyle

Like asthma, COPD is a disabling lung disease that can seriously restrict a person’s breathing. Regular exposure to cigarette smoke is by far the top cause of COPD. Some of the key warning signs include chest tightness, severe mucus buildup, and chronic wheezing. As the disease progresses, even normal everyday tasks may become a major source of discomfort.

Although the medical world has yet to find a cure for COPD, you can effectively manage the symptoms by making the necessary lifestyle changes.

How to Manage COPD Symptoms

Stop Smoking

If you want to win the battle against COPD, you must stop smoking immediately. Cigarettes contain several toxic chemicals. Over time, the damage done to your lungs will eventually begin to take a toll.

After you permanently cease smoking, expect to experience dramatically less inflammation. Your breathing will gradually start to get better and better. While quitting cold turkey may prove to be a daunting task, it’s well worth it in the long run. The initial nicotine withdrawal symptoms will eventually subside.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be alone in your fight to quit smoking. Joining a support group can give you an extra level of motivation.

Take Steps to Avoid Getting Sick

When dealing with COPD, it’s especially important to avoid getting sick. While a respiratory virus is bound to make your breathing difficulties worse, pneumonia is especially risky for COPD sufferers. Because germs spread so easily during the winter, it’s highly advisable to get a flu shot every year.

Although the flu vaccine isn’t 100 percent effective, it does give you an additional measure of protection. You should also develop a habit of washing your hands on a regular basis. When possible, keep your distance from sick friends and family members.

Consider Oxygen Therapy

Research shows that oxygen therapy can be a big help to COPD patients. It enables their lungs to perform a lot more efficiency. The heart also isn’t forced to work as hard. Most importantly, your life will be prolonged. After receiving oxygen treatment, many people report a noticeable increase energy and stamina.

While some people prefer to insert oxygen tubes in their nostrils, others like using face masks. Small oxygen tanks are beneficial for people who are always on the go.

Don’t Stop Exercising

Because COPD causes you to become short of breath, some people develop a sedentary lifestyle. However, failing to stay active will only further complicate your problems. The best approach is to exercise on a regular basis. Under the guidance of your doctor, you can develop a weekly workout plan. Plus, don’t underestimate the benefits of going for a daily walk.

Aside from strengthening your heart and lungs, exercising improves blood circulation. Although you may not be able to run a marathon, you will begin to breathe a lot easier.

Listen to Your Doctor

Don’t make the mistake of overlooking your doctor’s recommendations. Listening to their advice can help improve your quality of life. In order to manage your symptoms, you must take the prescribed medications. Even a single missed dose can lead to increased inflammation. If your health care provider enrolls you in a rehabilitation program, put effort into making the scheduled appointments.

Popular Prescription Options

Your prescribed COPD medications will vary according to the seriousness of your condition. Most people will benefit from a daily corticosteroid, which is designed to minimize lung inflammation on an around-the-clock basis. Although corticosteroid shots are available, the majority of patients prefer to use inhalers. Your doctor will also likely prescribe a short-acting bronchodilator. Unlike corticosteroids, short-acting bronchodilators should be used during emergency situations. They seek to immediately open up your airways.

Lifestyle and Home Remedies

Avoid Certain Foods

Your everyday diet has a direct influence on your ability to manage COPD. Stay far away from processed foods that contain nitrates. Some of the main culprits include ham, hot dogs, bacon, and cold cuts. You should also avoid consuming a lot of dairy products. The milk tends to increase mucus production, which will ultimately have a negative impact on your breathing. Salty foods are an absolute no-no as well. Because high amounts of sodium may cause your body to retain excess water, you won’t be able to exhale as freely.

On the other hand, fresh fruits and veggies can actually help clear your lungs.

Curb Alcohol Consumption

Unfortunately, alcohol consumption is not recommended for COPD sufferers. It lowers the body’s glutathione levels. This is an important antioxidant that helps the lungs to perform at their best. Furthermore, sipping on an alcoholic beverage can interfere with your COPD medications.

Get More Vitamin D

Vitamin D is among the most important nutrients for lung function. The bad news is that a lot of people don’t get enough of it. One of the best ways to increase your vitamin D levels is to simply go outdoors. The sunlight naturally triggers your body to produce more vitamin D.

More Sleep, Less Stress

It’s certainly important for COPD sufferers to get enough rest. To ensure that you sleep well at night, avoid consuming high amounts of coffee during the day. Even a single cup of coffee contains enough caffeine to keep you awake. You should also focus on maintaining a stress-free lifestyle. COPD can be easily aggravated by bouts of anxiety.
Each day take some time out to meditate and unwind. Simply relaxing in the park can help ease your nerves.

Practice Breathing Exercises

There are plenty of breathing exercises that you can easily do at home. Deep breathing is especially effective at preventing air from getting trapped in the lungs. You should also practice coordinated breathing. By slowly inhaling through your nose, you’re able to take in more oxygen.

Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock
Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock