The symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including shortness of breath, wheezing, and chronic cough, can make daily tasks more challenging.
Everyday things that may not seem physically demanding can be difficult for someone with COPD. Eating, getting dressed, and doing household tasks can be hard to manage when a person has trouble breathing.
However, a COPD diagnosis doesn’t have to mean that a person will lose their independence, or that they will have to stop enjoying their favorite activities.
Following a treatment plan can significantly improve a person’s life and help them find their “new normal.”
With some changes and effective treatments, many people with COPD can lead fulfilling lives. Though the diagnosis of COPD can be overwhelming, there are ways to make everyday life easier and more enjoyable:
People should be open with doctors and members of their healthcare team. With a new COPD diagnosis, symptoms may be confusing or even frightening. Talking to the healthcare team about symptoms and challenges helps people to work through them, learn the best way to stay healthy, and still take part in life’s activities.
After a person has been diagnosed with COPD, they will have to attend regular appointments with their doctor and get used to new treatments. Developing a treatment plan is an essential part of living well with COPD. A treatment plan may include medications, oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation, lifestyle changes, and education about COPD.
People with COPD sometimes have a large healthcare team around them that can include doctors, nurses, therapists, dietitians, psychologists, social workers, and spiritual advisors such as a chaplain. All of these professionals play an important role in helping a person with COPD stay as healthy as possible.
Many patients have regular pulmonary rehabilitation appointments. A study in the International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease suggests that pulmonary rehab can help people with COPD lead quality lives in a number of ways, including increasing their ability to exercise.
In addition to medical care, people with COPD can make some changes at home to keep themselves feeling well and to help manage symptoms. With the right treatment and home changes, many people with COPD can continue to do what they enjoy.
Eating is a part of daily life, and people with COPD should follow a healthful diet to help with their condition. Choosing the right foods may help a person with COPD continue their daily activities because they will be healthier, more energetic, and less short of breath.
A diet suitable for people with COPD doesn’t have to be overly strict or complex. In general, people with COPD should focus on healthful whole foods including:
Many people with COPD will be given diet guidelines by their healthcare team. Following a healthful diet can have a strong impact on how a person feels and can help them avoid lung infections and other complications.
Though it may seem unrelated to the lungs, consuming healthful food is an effective way to help people with COPD feel better and remain active and involved in daily life. A study in Translational Research suggests that intake of certain vitamins and nutrients, especially vitamins E, D, C, and A, was associated with better lung function.
Exercise can – and should – be a part of life for people with COPD. Staying active with COPD may be difficult at first, but it is well worth the effort.
A moderate amount of exercise can help a person with COPD carry on with their everyday tasks without shortness of breath and other symptoms standing in their way. A study in the CHEST Journal suggested that the more active a person with COPD is, the lower their mortality risk.
Unfortunately, many people with COPD avoid exercise because they are afraid they will be short of breath or simply don’t have the energy. As a person exercises less, their fitness level declines. Over time, they may be unable to do much activity at all.
This drop in fitness can be reduced if a person with COPD keeps physically active. Even those who haven’t been active in the past can begin an exercise program slowly and gradually with a doctor’s guidance. Though exercise cannot reverse COPD, it can help a person remain independent and healthy for as long as possible.
Breathing exercises are a special way of moving air in and out that can help relax the body and allow the lungs to take in more oxygen. These exercises help relieve immediate symptoms of COPD. They can also increase confidence so that a person feels less afraid to go for a walk, prepare a meal, or do other activities that they have always done.
Breathing exercises are a valuable tool for those with COPD. They can help a person remain active and involved in daily life.
The most common breathing exercises for COPD are pursed lip breathing and belly breathing. A pulmonary rehabilitation specialist can demonstrate how these are done and help people master them so they can be used anytime.
A person who has been diagnosed with COPD needs to stay as healthy as they can and should avoid illness as much as possible by:
Being mindful of illnesses and germs can help avoid lung infections, which can be serious.
A COPD diagnosis doesn’t have to mean the end of enjoying life. With the guidance of a healthcare team and a healthful lifestyle, many people are able to continue some or all of their regular activities.
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