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Ten Healthy Tips for Living with COPD

April21image006There is currently no cure for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, living a healthy lifestyle can help improve your quality of life by strengthening your body while keeping your respiratory system out of harm’s way and preserving your lung capacity.

Here are 10 ways COPD sufferers can improve their health.

  1. Quit smoking — Smoking isn’t good for anyone. But if you have COPD, quitting is one of the best and healthiest decisions you can make. Doing so won’t cure or reverse the effects of COPD, but it can slow its progression and make breathing easier. Your doctor can prescribe medications to help reduce cravings and offer nicotine replacement therapies. It is also important for COPD sufferers to minimize their exposure to secondhand smoke.
  2. Stay active — Because their breathing is limited, COPD sufferers may be worried about having enough lung capacity to work out. While you may not be able to run a marathon, there are gentle workouts that can improve respiratory strength and breathing. Short walks, gentle stretching exercises and other activities that won’t irritate breathing are great starting points — however, it is important to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.
  3. Eat a healthy diet — Eating a healthy, balanced diet can stimulate weight loss, making it easier for COPD sufferers to breathe. Eat small, lighter meals throughout the day and avoid foods that make you feel gassy or bloated because those side effects can exacerbate breathing problems.
  4. Stay hydrated — Drinking water thins out mucus, which helps prevent it from building up in your lungs. A good goal is to drink six to eight 8-ounce glasses per day, though check with your doctor to establish a good goal for you. Be careful not to drink too much water, though, because it can make you full and make breathing more difficult.
  5. Improve indoor quality — Because secondhand smoke can be just as toxic as inhaling straight from a cigarette, it is important to ban smoking in your home. It is wise to steer clear of cleaning products and perfumes that have strong odors, which can make breathing difficult. Vacuuming carpets regularly and using an air purifier are good ways to reduce airborne pollutants and irritants indoors, but make sure both have HEPA (high-efficiency particulate absorbing) filters.
  6. Get a flu shot — Because respiratory infections can make COPD worse, it is important to check with your doctor to see if you’re a candidate for a flu shot. If so, try to get at the start of flu season every October or November. You can also speak with your doctor about the pneumonia vaccine and take steps to avoid contracting the common cold, which can lead to bronchitis, by avoiding sick people, washing your hands and using hand sanitizer regularly. Also, avoid touching your face.
  7. Learn breathing techniques — Some techniques, such as pursed-lip breathing, can open your lungs and allow more air in. You can talk to your doctor about this technique and others that can help control your breathing during COPD flares. Your doctor can also fill you in on pulmonary rehabilitation, which teaches you different ways to breathe and strengthens your respiratory muscles so you can enjoy more activities without feeling breathless.
  8. Get a portable oxygen tank — Lugging a heavy oxygen tank on errands can be very difficult. Switching to a lightweight, portable unit whenever you leave home can make activities such as going to dinner and traveling much easier.
  9. Use a humidifier — COPD sufferers are at a high risk of getting bronchitis, which is when your lungs produce too much mucus. A humidifier creates more moisture in the air and loosens up that mucus, making it easier for you to cough it up and out of your lungs.
  10. Join a support group — Living with COPD can cause depression and anxiety and may make you feel overwhelmed. While you may receive support from your family and doctor, chatting with a group of other COPD sufferers gives you the chance to interact and relate with someone going the same thing that you are. Joining a support group also gives you a chance to share and receive tips on how to live with COPD.

Read the complete Healthline story about living a healthy lifestyle with COPD.

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