Tips for Living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

For most of us, breathing is so automatic we do not even think about it; but, when you have COPD, you have to make a conscious, concerted effort to perform this simple act that comes so easily to everyone else. Any disease that affects your respiratory health can severely impact quality of life and make even the easiest tasks a challenge. But, there are many ways to help you cope with this condition and minimize symptoms.

Air Quality

Did you know that the air indoors can often be more polluted than the air outside? While breathing clean air free of irritants is important for anyone, it is even more so if you have respiratory conditions like COPD. Improving the air quality inside your home is an important step in minimizing lung irritation and subsequent difficulty breathing. An air purifier can do wonders.

You might also consider getting house plants that have been shown to cleanse harmful irritants from the air, such as benzene and formaldehyde. According to a 2 year study by NASA, good choices include English ivy, spider plant, golden pothos, peace lily, Chinese evergreen, bamboo palm, snake plant, heartleaf philodendron, selloum philodendron, elephant ear philodendron, red-edged dracaena, cornstalk dracaena, Janet Craig dracaena, warneck dracaena, weeping fig, gerbera daisy, pot mum and the rubber plant. For a 2,000 square foot house, it is recommended to have between 12 and 18 plants for optimal filtering benefit. Switching to natural products for your cleaning needs can also help as can using natural air fresheners—standard commercial products contain loads of chemicals that can irritate the lungs and exacerbate breathing difficulties.

Eating Tips

When it comes to COPD, how you eat, not just what you eat, is important in minimizing uncomfortable symptoms that may make it difficult for you to breathe, or interfere with adequate food intake, which is vital since the extra effort required to breathe can burn up a load of calories. At least one hour before a meal, clear your airways. Eat slowly and chew slowly while breathing deeply; making a conscious effort to put your fork down between bites can help slow you down. Eating several smaller meals throughout the day rather than three big ones will minimize stomach expansion, which leaves more room for your lungs to expand, which will make it easier for you to breathe. Avoid uncomfortable feelings of fullness or bloating by saving beverages for the end of the meal—avoid drinking before since you want to fill up on more calorie-dense foods to meet your energy needs.

Exercise

When you have chronic respiratory problems, exercise may not be at the top of the list of things to do, but as challenging as it may be at times, it is one of the best things you can do to cope with your condition. Exercise will benefit you in numerous ways, such as helping your body use oxygen more efficiently, improving the strength of respiratory muscles, increasing lung capacity and giving you more energy. It will also provide a mental boost by reducing anxiety and depression and helping you sleep better.  The Cleveland Clinic recommends exercising at least 20 to 30 minutes  three to four days a week; besides cardiovascular exercise, you should do upper-body strength training to help strengthen your respiratory muscles. Practicing pursed-lip breathing—exhaling with lips in the same position as if you were whistling will better help you meet your oxygen needs during  work-out session.

It is important not to push yourself too hard—you may easily feel fatigued at first and that is okay. Do not get discouraged…just keep on doing what you are doing and gradually you will be able to increase the amount of time you can exercise. If you do not use oxygen normally, you may benefit from using it during physical activity—discuss this with your doctor.