COPD and Obesity

We often hear how those with COPD tend to lose weight and muscle mass. This happens because they use more energy to breathe, especially in the later stages of their COPD.

COPD basics

For those who don’t know, COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The COPD Foundation explains it as:1
This means that the disease lasts a long time and is always present. Symptoms may take years to develop and the severity may differ at times. However, there are still things that you can do to slow the progression of this disease.
It’s difficult to move air in and out of your lungs because it is blocked or obstructed. This obstruction may be caused by swelling and extra mucus in the tubes of the lungs (airways) which carry air in and out.
This means that the disease is located in your lungs.
Your lungs have some damage. Even though a cure hasn’t been found, your symptoms can be treated.

Yes, yodel

It’s important to realize that being severely overweight, otherwise known as obese, is serious. Being overweight can cause decreased lung function. Depending on their stage, COPD patients might be short of breath. Obese patients likely have increased and compromised lung function. The lungs and diaphragm can be compressed.

If you ever took chorus in school, you likely learned to put your hand on your diaphragm which is just below the lungs. Your chorus director likely told you to put your hand on your diaphragm and to breathe in, then with full lungs, she would have us sing or even yodel. Yes, yodel. That diaphragm is used the same way we do pursed-lip breathing.

Compromised breathing

With obesity, your diaphragm isn’t working as it should. Put your hand over your diaphragm. Slowly breathe in 1-2-3. Breathe out 1, 2. Just as you would do for pursed-lip breathing. If you are obese, do you feel how your breathing may be compromised? You may struggle to inhale, yet you might also struggle to empty your lungs when you exhale.

You realize how important it is to exercise. You are starting with the treadmill. Can you do the treadmill without getting short of breath? I should mention the increased shortness of breath. How about bending? Can you bend over as if you are trying to touch your toes? Does your belly get in the way? Do you feel like your lungs or diaphragm are compromised, where it’s more difficult to breathe?

Other considerations

Somet other ways that obesity may compromise your COPD include:

  • It may be more difficult to do the exercises that are needed for strengthening your upper body.
  • Difficulty in doing overall exercises can affect the COPDer's body.
  • A sedentary lifestyle is a big possibility.
  • The diet may not be healthy, and it is likely not within the required calorie intake to be healthy.
  • Obesity might cause a person to be in more pain, in the back, joints and more.
  • The person could have sleep apnea which affects and is affected by COPD.

How can a person lose weight?

Here are some tips for losing weight:

  • Have reasonable and realistic goals and stick to them when you weigh and measure yourself. Discuss these with your doctor.
  • Eat smaller portions.
  • Watch your calories and ask your doctor how many calories a day you should have.
  • Portions are important. Eat more vegetables and fruits a day, then you can do meat.
  • Avoid empty calories, such as sugary items like cookies, cakes, pies, bread, cereals and more.
  • Skip the chips and other high calorie and high carbohydrate items.
  • Stay away from soda, or as I call it, pop. They are full of sugar and the diet drinks have artificial sweeteners that may actually be sweeter than the actual product.
  • Exercise. You should get your doctors approval of the exercises that you are wanting to do.
  • Be honest with yourself as you weigh and measure.
  • Have a support system, it’s important for success to have someone(s).
  • Do it for yourself.

Know that we wish you well and that we are here for you.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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