As the third leading cause of death in United States, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a serious health condition that claims more than 133,000 lives each year. While there is not yet a cure for the disease, if you are one of the estimated 12.7 million Americans currently living with COPD, there are certain steps you can take in order to help manage and treat your symptoms for a healthier and more independent life ahead.
1. Monitor Symptoms
Many doctors recommend COPD patients keep a daily log of their progress. By keeping track of symptoms, monitoring their triggers and pinpointing complications, you can better avoid situations that jeopardize your health. Over time, you may begin to recognize patterns in your symptoms that can help your doctor guide your care to best meet your needs and goals.
2. Quit or Don’t Start Smoking
Smoking is the primary risk factor for COPD. In fact, up to half of long-term smokers older than age 60 are diagnosed with COPD, and as many as 90 percent of COPD deaths are caused by smoking. Quitting tobacco (or not starting!), as well as staying away from secondhand smoke, is not only the best way to prevent COPD, but it’s also important for treating the disease if you have already been diagnosed.
3. Stay Active
Regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise, has many benefits for COPD patients, including improved symptoms, increased energy levels and better circulation. Before exercising with COPD, it is important to consult your doctor about the type, level and frequency of physical activity advised for your condition. Depending on your heath, he or she may recommend activities like walking, light jogging, water aerobics and other low-impact sport. For those who have certain precautions and limitations for exercise, your doctor primary care provider can help you devise a plan that accommodates your needs.
4. Eat Healthy
Though a healthy diet can’t cure COPD, focusing on good nutrition can help you keep your body and immune system strong. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, olive oil and whole grains, and low in red meat, sugar and processed foods, is thought to help reduce chronic inflammation. Your doctor may offer other recommendations, such as nutritional supplements, to make sure your body is getting the nutrients it needs to stay healthy.
5. Choose Your Environment Carefully
When living with COPD, you understand that your ability to breathe is dependent on your environment. In your home, create an environment that reduces the risk of flare-ups by avoiding smoke from cigarettes, fireplaces and wood strokes; scented beauty products; fumes from cleaning products and paints; pet hair; and dust, dust mites and mildew. Outside of your home, stay away from environments with heavy air pollution and smog; traffic fumes and exhaust from cars; chemical fumes; high altitudes and cold, dry, hot or humid air; as well as seasonal pollens that may interfere with your ability to breathe.
6. Defend Against Infections
Because their immune systems are typically too weak to fight off infection, people with COPD are considered a high-risk group for respiratory infections. Any form of bacterial or viral lung infection can cause COPD exacerbation – even the common cold. Becoming sick with COPD puts you at risk for developing more serious conditions, such as pneumonia, that can weaken the lungs even further. Help your body defend against infections by washing your hands with soap frequently and avoiding contact with anyone who appears to be ill or under the weather.
7. Find Support
COPD affects more than just your lungs; it affects everything from your emotional health to your ability to perform everyday tasks that are important for maintaining your independence. If you could benefit from additional medical assistance to manage and treat COPD symptoms, opt for the support of respiratory therapy, home medical equipment and home nursing in the comfort of home. Under the supervision and direction of your own physician, your home care nurse or respiratory therapist can help with medical management, breathing treatments, home medical equipment, telehealth monitoring as well as education and coping support – all custom tailored to your unique needs and wishes.
Coping with COPD is an ongoing process that involves major lifestyle changes and chronic care management. Fortunately, you do not have it navigate it alone. To learn more information about managing your COPD through the support of a compassionate and knowledgeable team of repertory therapists, contact UnityPoint at Home today.