What is COPD?
COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is the name for a group of lung conditions that affect a person’s ability to breathe. The most common lung diseases associated with COPD are Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis.
Emphysema – damage to the air sacs in the lungs
Chronic Bronchitis – long-term inflammation of the airways
COPD is a common condition that mainly affects middle-aged or older adults who smoke. Being continually exposed to chemicals over many years can lead to COPD, and it can take some time to develop. The breathing problems tend to get gradually worse over time and can limit your normal day to day activities. Although COPD has no cure, certain treatments can help patients manage their symptoms, improve their quality of life, and reduce the risk of complications.
- Avoid/Quit Smoking – This may seem like an obvious one, but it is one of the most important. Smoking is detrimental to the lungs, and it can severely exacerbate COPD symptoms. People who are diagnosed with COPD should quit smoking immediately and those who don’t smoke, should avoid secondhand smoke at all costs.
Learn more about quitting smoking at https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-feature/quit-smoking
- Eat Right/Maintain a Healthy Diet – Shortness of breath that comes with COPD can make it hard to eat a balanced diet. To give your body the fuel it needs to manage your symptoms, eat a nutritious diet that avoids processed foods, which are lacking essential nutrients. Always talk with your doctor before starting a diet or exercise plan and start slowly.
- Eat small, well-balanced meals more frequently
- Use a smaller plate and portions
- Keep a bottle of water with you and drink before you eat meals
- Eat one fresh vegetable or fruit with every meal
- Create an Exercise Plan That Works for You – People think that due to shortness of breath, people with COPD should avoid exercising, but this is not the case. It is important for people with COPD to exercise regularly as it can help lessen symptoms of fatigue.
- Maintain your muscle strength by moving your body regularly
- Use a step counter to keep track of how many steps you take each day
- Lifting a can of veggies or exercising with a resistance band can help you gain muscle
- Get rest – There needs to be a healthy balance between exercising and resting when you have COPD. Rest is important for over-all health, and symptoms from COPD can make it difficult to sleep. Most of the sleep problems related to COPD can be helped by speaking with your doctor.
- Try to avoid taking naps so that you are tired when it’s time to go to bed
- Have a small high-protein snack such as cheese and crackers or a handful of nuts before bed – avoid large meals with lots of carbohydrates
- Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet
- No caffeine after 5pm
- Keep regular bedtime and wake-up times
- Take your Medications Correctly – Most people with COPD take medication regularly to help with breathing problems. Shortness of breath, chest infections, and hospital stays can all be reduced by taking COPD medicine as directed.
- Use a daily routine for taking your medicine
- Use a medicine checklist to keep track of when you need to take each pill if you take them at different times throughout the day
- To avoid missing a dose, get a pillbox with divisions for different days of the week and even times of the day
- Tell your doctor about any side effects they may be relieved by changing the dose or medication
- Keep all of your medications on you at all times when travelling, and never check them in your luggage
- Oxygen Options – Some people with COPD need oxygen therapy to help their body work properly. Oxygen therapy increases the amount of oxygen that flows into your lungs and bloodstream. Getting additional oxygen can help you breathe better and live longer if your COPD is severe, and your blood oxygen levels are low. You don’t have to stay at home or in a hospital to use oxygen, as many oxygen systems are portable. You can use them while you do your daily tasks such as, sleep, rest, or activity. There are several ways to deliver the oxygen, including:
- Oxygen concentrators
- Oxygen-gas cylinders
- Liquid-oxygen devices
- Retrain your Breathing – Learning and practicing new breathing techniques will help you move more air in and out of your lungs and decrease shortness of breath.
- Diaphragmatic breathing: Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. While breathing in, push your stomach out. This uses the diaphragm and the lower respiratory muscles.
- Pursed lip breathing: use the same diaphragmatic breathing technique, but when you breathe out, purse your lips slightly like you are going to whistle. Breathe out slowly through pursed lips.
- Avoid infections – Lung infections are more likely in those who have COPD. Vaccines are often recommended. The influenza vaccine is recommended once a year. Every 5 to 7 years, the pneumonia vaccine is advised. To avoid the spread of germs and infections, wash your hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitizer