COPD is a chronic, progressive illness, but you can help yourself stay as healthy as possible during each stage by following a treatment plan and making some lifestyle changes. For the purposes of treatment, COPD is classified into 4 different stages.
In Stage 2, which is also called moderate COPD, symptoms are more apparent than in mild COPD. Lung function has deteriorated to the point where shortness of breath is more common, especially with activity. Coughing is also more common, and often brings up a thick mucus.
Treatment at this stage is aimed at controlling and reducing your symptoms. There are other steps you can take too to improve your health status and your breathing.
Quitting smoking won’t cure your COPD or prevent it from getting worse over time. However, it will greatly slow down how fast your disease progresses. Plus, it will relieve some of your symptoms and help you overall to just feel better. Check out the Rewards of Quitting Smoking in a Nutshell for more reasons to quit.
Your health care team can help you decide the best way to stop smoking. While some people can do it cold turkey, many others need a little help. You’ll find some helpful suggestions here.
Prevent Respiratory Infections
People who have moderate COPD are at high risk of respiratory infections because your airways are chronically inflamed and irritated. Even the common cold can result in a significant worsening of your symptoms.
So, your best solution is to prevent these more serious illnesses. The flu can be prevented by getting a yearly flu vaccine in the fall/winter. Although flu shots don’t always prevent the flu, they will lessen the severity and length of time that you are ill.
Pneumonia vaccines are given every 5 to 10 years, as a rule. Consult with your doctor to learn about current guidelines.
It’s also a good idea to avoid coming into contact with people who have colds, flu and pneumonia when you have COPD.
Take Your Medicine
Medication takes on an increasing importance as COPD becomes more severe. So, while people who have only mild COPD may not be on any medication or may only need it occasionally, those who have progressed to the moderate stage generally need to take medication every day.
- Short-acting bronchodilators. You may know this as your rescue inhaler. You use it when symptoms arise or worsen. Albuterol and Proventil are common examples.
- Long-acting bronchodilators. People who have COPD usually will need one or more of these types of medicines to prevent or lessen their symptoms. These may be either beta-agonists, such as formoterol or anticholinergics, such as salmeterol or tiotropium bromide.
Although it’s important to understand why your doctor has prescribed certain medications, don’t get hung up on the scientific names. The important thing is to take your medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor. If the medication isn’t working as expected, then talk with your doctor.
Make Healthy Choices
Making healthy choices each and every day will enhance the quality of your life and help you stay independent as long as possible. Any efforts you make will be well worth it.
- Eating healthy. Control meal portions, reduce your intake of carbohydrates and high fat foods. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Drink half your weight in ounces of water each day. These are all healthy eating choices that can help boost your immune system, help you to lose weight and improve your energy.
- Staying active. As your symptoms increase, they can interfere with your desire to get up and move. But, if you push through this discomfort, your endurance and tolerance for activity will improve. And that will improve your lung function to some extent. Being active will also improve muscle strength and tone and raise your mood.
- Get plenty of sleep. Getting 8 hours of quality sleep a night will help your body recharge, improve weight loss efforts, if needed, and also strengthen your immune system. It’s important, though, not to sleep all the time. Balance periods of activity with periods of rest.
Go to Rehab
No, not that kind of rehab. I’m talking about pulmonary rehabilitation. With this type of program, you’ll work with a multidisciplinary health care team that focuses on various aspects of your treatment.
Pulmonary rehab programs usually include a combination of:
- Exercise training
- Nutritional counseling
- Education about your COPD and how to manage it
- Energy-conserving techniques
- Breathing techniques
- Psychological counseling and/or group support
Your team will develop a plan that best meets your needs. It is usually conducted on an outpatient basis. This type of program isn’t going to cure your COPD or even prevent it from progressing over time. But it will have some important benefits. In fact, It can:
- Improve your quality of life
- Help you function better in your daily life
- Increase your ability to exercise
- Decrease the symptoms of your COPD
- Help you manage anxiety and depression
So, what’s not to love about that? If your doctor has not suggested a pulmonary rehab program for you, don’t be afraid to bring it up yourself.
Even though you are starting to notice frequent symptoms when you progress to Stage 2/Moderate COPD, this doesn’t mean it’s time to give in and give up. On the contrary, taking the steps outlined in this post can make a big difference in the quality of your life and even in the future progress of your disease.