Expert Answers: Favorite Tip for COPD

For COPD Awareness Month, we gave questions to the experts that revolved around learning more about COPD and/or how we can raise awareness and help others learn more. In light of that, we asked our experts…

“As a Respiratory Therapist, what’s your favorite tip to share for managing COPD?”

Check out what they had to say, and feel free to add your favorite tips in the comments!

Response from John

Keep a positive attitude. This is one of the keys to staying on the path to good health. Positive thinking means that you keep your head up and do the things needed to set you on a path to easy breathing. Such things may include learning about your disease, seeing your doctor regularly, taking your medicine as prescribed, and staying physically active. A bonus is that staying physically active can help you feel good and stay positive. Another bonus is that studies have shown that keeping a positive attitude can help you live longer. One study even showed that a positive attitude has an even greater impact on how long you will live than losing weight and quitting smoking. So, keep a positive attitude and breathe easy.

Response from Leon

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is a term used to include emphysema, chronic bronchitis or a combination of both conditions. These diseases are characterized by increased swelling and mucus production in the airways, inflammation, and actual destruction to the alveoli, or air sacs themselves, in the lung. The obstruction (in COPD) refers to the inability for the patient to empty their lungs normally with each breath. This results in shortness of breath and fatigue since it takes more effort to breathe.1-6

As a practicing respiratory therapist, I find it difficult to relay just one, or a single favorite tip. Based on the severity of the disease, there are a group of helpful recommendations I provide to patients with COPD, to assist them in managing their COPD. By paying attention to all the suggestions, I see that they find it’s a more comprehensive approach for them to follow.

Here are a few of the top tips I rely upon:1-6

  • First and foremost, if you smoke, stop smoking! This is the single most important thing you can do for your health and specifically, your COPD.
  • Stay compliant with your medication regimen. Medication is prescribed for a reason, namely; to help control the symptoms of COPD. By staying on schedule with medication(s), you help yourself to feel better.
  • Eat properly. Try to eat small, well balanced meals and be sure to include fresh vegetables and fruit with meals. Make certain to stay hydrated too.
  • Exercise – staying active helps to maintain muscle strength. You can use a step counter to help keep track of your activity. If a pulmonary rehabilitation program is recommended, be sure to participate in it.
  • Rest is an extremely important component to one’s general health. However, people with COPD sometimes have difficulty getting sufficient rest and even have difficulty sleeping at night. There are many worthwhile suggestions (on our website) how to best handle sleeping issues for people living with COPD.
  • Learn as much as you can about COPD. There is a wealth of information about COPD on our website and the internet. The more you know about the disease, the better equipped you are to manage your condition successfully.

Response from Lyn

Choose one goal and start with that. It may be you need to quit smoking, eat healthier, get more exercise, start pulmonary rehab, or manage your medications better. Whatever your situation, don’t try to accomplish it all at once – you’ll become discouraged and give up. So, pick the thing that’s most important to you or that will make you feel the best. Start small. For example, perhaps you’d like to get more exercise but can barely walk across your living room. Start by sitting in your chair and doing leg and arm lifts. You may only be able to do one or two to begin with. Work up from there. Once you’re able to do those without too much shortness of breath, start standing in front of your chair and walk a step or two and turn around. The same principle can be applied to any of your goals, even smoking cessation. If you aren’t the type that can just stop – and believe me that’s easier said than done – then quit in tiny steps. It may take longer than you’d like, but if you’re successful, what difference does it make? If you smoke a pack a day, reduce that number by one cigarette. When you feel you’re ready, reduce by another. Don’t expect more of yourself than is reasonable.

Download a progress chart and track your weekly progress. The visual aid will allow you to “see” your progress. As you look back on it you’ll see how far you’ve come even though you may not feel like you’ve made any headway. You can make one up yourself using spreadsheet software or there are downloadable charts online. There are also a number of free apps that allow you to do it on your tablet or smart phone. Whichever you choose to do, be sure you note your progress each day, however insignificant you may think it is.

How about you? Do you have any favorite go-to tips for managing COPD? Please share with the community by posting in the comments below!

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