Tips for Living Your Best Life With COPD
When you get a COPD diagnosis, you may feel as though the bottom just fell out of your world -- and your future. After all, it's a chronic illness that has no cure and that will inevitably get worse as the years pass. However, it's also true that COPD is treatable and that with early detection and treatment, progression of the disease can be greatly slowed for a long time.
And the good news is, you can take charge of your health and the quality of your life. In this post, I'm going to outline a few approaches that can help you maintain a stable health status and still live a quality life.
Knowledge Is Power
Arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can about COPD and its treatment and management. The more you know, the better prepared you'll be to take the right steps. As with any disease, COPD can vary greatly between patients. Your experience may be different from your friend's or your neighbor's or the person you meet at your doctor's office.
Thanks to the internet, there is no lack of information available about COPD. Not all of the information is accurate or valid, however. So, be sure to seek out sources that are. Websites like this one right here, copd.net, or major hospitals are trustworthy. So are those curated by the Federal government, such as the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute or by nonprofit experts such as the American Lung Association.
Your own health care team is also a great resource. Never hesitate to make a list of questions before you call or visit the doctor or clinic. Your doctor, his/her nurses and the respiratory therapist are all there to help you learn about your disease and its management.
Also, be aware, that things are changing all the time in health care. COPD is the third leading cause of disease-related deaths in the U.S. 1, so there are always research studies going on that are examining how to prevent, detect and treat it better. Leading COPD sites will report on these studies and inform you about what the results might mean for you.
Follow Your Treatment Plan
COPD is treatable. Remember that. Treatment won't cure the disease or make it go away altogether. But the right medications, supplemental oxygen, and other interventions can make a huge difference in how you feel and what you are able to do. And they will definitely slow the progression of your disease.
Medications Can Make a Difference
Not every person who has COPD will need to be on medication. But, medications can help lessen some of the symptoms of COPD in some cases. They can make it easier for you to breathe and to recover from attacks of breathlessness.
If your symptoms are not well-controlled or if you have frequent flares, you might want to talk with your doctor about the possibility of adding a COPD medication such as a bronchodilator to your treatment plan.
If you are on medication, then make sure you understand what it is for and how to use it correctly. Some medications are taken regularly, once or twice a day, as a preventive measure. Others may only need to be used as symptoms arise or worsen. Use them as directed, and be sure to get them refilled in a timely manner.
Supplemental Oxygen Can Improve Your Quality of Life
Again, not every COPD sufferer will need to be on supplemental oxygen. But once your COPD progresses to a certain level, oxygen can be very helpful. Oxygen can:2
- help you live longer
- feel less short of breath
- exercise easier and longer
If you're not on oxygen, but wonder if it might help you feel better, talk with your health care team. You'll never know unless you ask! If oxygen has been prescribed for you, then it's important to use it exactly as directed. Some people only use oxygen at certain times, while others use it continuously. Your doctor can help you decide what's right for you.
Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle
Every living person will benefit from adopting a healthy lifestyle. But when you are already battling a chronic illness such as COPD, making healthy lifestyle choices can greatly improve how you feel and your overall level of wellness.
Make Healthy Food Choices
Balance is the most important goal to strive for. I'm not an advocate of depriving yourself of foods that make you happy and that you love. The key is not to overindulge in less healthy foods like sweets, carbohydrates and high fat foods. If those are foods you like, then consider limiting how often and how much of them you eat.
Work to include more fruits and vegetables in your daily choices. Opt for whole grains over refined grains. Eat reasonable portion sizes. Drink half your weight in water every day, unless otherwise directed. Avoid adding a lot of sugar and salt to your food.
For more specific tips, see the article, Can Healthy Eating Help COPD?
Stay As Active As You Can
If you can participate in some type of formal exercise program, great. But even if that's not right for you at first, simply getting up and moving your body for a few minutes every hour or two can make a big difference.
Reduce Your Stress
Having a chronic illness can be stressful, and having trouble breathing can be anxiety-provoking. Take time to take care of yourself. Learn how to relax and maybe even meditate.
Find someone to talk with about what you're going through and experiencing. Don't keep it all bottled up inside.
And make sure to get plenty of sleep and balance your activity with rest to allow your body to recover.
Build a Positive Support System
Remember this: you are not alone. COPD is a common illness, even though it may not always seem like it. You do not have to live your COPD journey without support.
Certainly, if you have supportive family and friends, then rely upon them. You might just need to vent how you are feeling sometimes. Other times, you may need help with chores around the house or with running errands outside the home. Let your friends/family know how best to support you.
You may want to talk with your doctor about pulmonary rehabilitation.3 Pulmonary rehab can be a valuable way to learn more about your disease and how to manage it effectively. Because it is done in a group setting, it can also be a way to establish a lasting support system.
Being diagnosed with COPD is not an immediate death sentence. It is more than possible to still live a positive, fairly stable quality of life and health for many years to come. All it takes is a winning attitude, a great health care team and the right treatment and lifestyle approach.
So, start taking steps today towards living your best life!
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