Most importantly, quit smoking if you haven’t already.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease—more commonly called COPD—is certainly a challenging condition that makes breathing difficult. But making the right lifestyle choices can significantly reduce the effect that COPD has on your life.
“Some of the common fears that people have when it comes to COPD is their ability to maintain their daily life activities,” says Margarita Oks, MD, pulmonologist at Lenox Hill Hospital and Northwell Health. “Both lifestyle and medication adherence are hugely important.”
1. Quit smoking.
Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for COPD, but once you’ve been diagnosed, it’s still important to quit. Smoking with COPD can trigger flare-ups, and quitting is the most important part of treating COPD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Similarly, try to avoid secondhand smoke as much as possible at home, at work, and in your social life.
2. Get moving.
It might seem counterintuitive, but regular exercise actually helps your COPD. Ask your doctor about pulmonary rehabilitation, a formal exercise program to help people with lung conditions get physically active under guidance and supervision.
“But you don’t need to be part of that [rehabilitation] program in order to exercise. Walking is considered endurance training, so if you can do it for 20 or 30 minutes every single day, that’s good enough,” says Dr. Oks. Additionally, you can practice resistance training simply by lifting cans of beans.
In addition to helping your COPD, staying active will also help boost your overall health. Here are health benefits of exercise to know about.
3. Breathe with your belly.
Instead of taking shallow breaths to your lungs, practice diaphragmatic breathing—deep breathing that expands in the belly instead of the chest. “Diaphragmatic breathing that we do during yoga and even tai chi has been shown to help people feel better,” says Dr. Oks.
4. Eat nutritiously.
“When somebody has COPD, they can’t eat as much and end up losing a lot of weight,” says Dr. Oks. “To maintain that [weight], you need to be very cognizant of eating a very well balanced and healthy diet.” If weight loss is a concern, choose healthy high-fat foods and high-calorie foods, such as whole-milk yogurt, avocado, nuts, and nut butters.
Keep in mind that a well-nourished body is a better defense against infections, which can be very serious for someone with COPD, according to the American Lung Association.
5. Keep up with your vaccines.
Another important aspect to prevent infections is getting your vaccines. This includes the annual flu vaccine and your pneumonia vaccines. Find out what vaccines are recommended for adults here, and talk to your doctor about which ones are appropriate for you.
“The diagnosis of COPD is definitely overwhelming, but it’s a disease that you can absolutely live with, that you can maintain a lifestyle with,” says Dr. Oks. “You can travel, you can see your children [and] grandchildren grow up, as long as you do whatever your doctors recommend.”
Dr. Oks is a pulmonologist at Lenox Hill Hospital and Northwell Health. She is triple board-certified in Internal Medicine, Critical Care Medicine, and Pulmonary Disease.
00:00:00,115 --> 00:00:02,420
00:00:02,420 --> 00:00:06,933
So some of the common fears that people
have when it comes to COPD is their
00:00:06,933 --> 00:00:10,181
ability to maintain their
daily life activities.
00:00:10,181 --> 00:00:14,069
Making sure that you're using your
medications appropriately will
00:00:14,069 --> 00:00:16,356
prevent the disease from progressing.
00:00:16,356 --> 00:00:19,003
So both lifestyle and
00:00:19,003 --> 00:00:24,743
medication adherence are hugely important.
00:00:24,743 --> 00:00:25,770
00:00:25,770 --> 00:00:29,696
The number one lifestyle
change is quitting smoking.
00:00:29,696 --> 00:00:34,363
When you have lung disease, pulmonary
rehabilitation is a formal way to
00:00:34,363 --> 00:00:39,352
exercise, but you do not need to be part
of that program in order to exercise.
00:00:39,352 --> 00:00:43,058
Walking is considered endurance training,
so if you can do it for 20 or
00:00:43,058 --> 00:00:45,874
30 minutes every single day,
that's good enough.
00:00:45,874 --> 00:00:50,559
Lifting metal food cans, that's gonna be
enough in terms of resistance straining.
00:00:50,559 --> 00:00:55,136
This leads to a significant improvement in
quality of life, and it's actually very,
00:00:55,136 --> 00:00:57,844
very helpful for
people who have any stage of COPD.
00:00:57,844 --> 00:01:01,703
The person who has COPD,
they will breath very quickly and
00:01:01,703 --> 00:01:03,609
take very shallow breaths.
00:01:03,609 --> 00:01:07,091
And that's actually really bad for
their underlying lung disease.
00:01:07,091 --> 00:01:11,063
Diaphragmatic breathing is taking
a deep breath in and out, and for
00:01:11,063 --> 00:01:14,840
somebody who has COPD,
that actually will take a lot of effort.
00:01:14,840 --> 00:01:17,987
that we do during yoga and
00:01:17,987 --> 00:01:21,360
even Tai Chi has been shown
to help people feel better.
00:01:21,360 --> 00:01:24,317
When somebody has COPD,
they can't eat as much.
00:01:24,317 --> 00:01:28,448
People end up losing a lot of weight,
and to maintain that you need to
00:01:28,448 --> 00:01:32,670
be very cognizant of eating a very
well-balanced and healthy diet.
00:01:32,670 --> 00:01:35,890
Making sure that you're getting
your influenza vaccine every year,
00:01:35,890 --> 00:01:38,848
that you're up-to-date with
your pneumonia vaccinations.
00:01:38,848 --> 00:01:41,574
You can ask what's
appropriate from your doctor.
00:01:41,574 --> 00:01:46,674
But those are also very important in
maintaining and controlling the disease.
00:01:46,674 --> 00:01:50,867
The diagnosis of COPD is definitely
overwhelming, but its a disease that
00:01:50,867 --> 00:01:54,937
you can absolutely live with,
that you can maintain a lifestyle with.
00:01:54,937 --> 00:02:00,893
You can travel, you can see your children,
grand children grow up with,
00:02:00,893 --> 00:02:05,041
as long as you do whatever
your doctors recommend.
00:02:05,041 --> 00:02:09,357
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Accessed on September 9, 2019 at https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/copd.html.)
COPD lifestyle changes. Chicago, IL: American Lung Association. (Accessed on September 9, 2019 at https://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/copd/living-with-copd/copd-lifestyle-changes.html.)
Nutrition and COPD. Chicago, IL: American Lung Association. (Accessed on September 9, 2019 at https://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/copd/living-with-copd/nutrition.html.)