Tell us about your symptoms and treatment experience. Take our survey here.

Tracking The Movement of Your Numbers

One of the things that I wish I had been taught at the beginning of my diagnosis was how to track my numbers. This would help me be more aware of the changes in my symptoms.

When I was in rehab, I watched how the nurses recorded your vitals and how they regurgitated the information back to the doctors. I never realized how important the questions were that the nurses asked.

Ways to track your numbers

When the doctor had something new to check, more questions would be added, and some deleted. This was the same method used for tests and bloodwork. It takes a long time to gather the information, but it holds all the answers once summarized.

Oximeter

The easiest tool to help you record your numbers is a portable fingertip oximeter. They can be purchased at many locations and do not usually cost a lot. They are battery-operated and take two readings: oxygen saturation and heart rate.

It can be taken as many times as you want and is non-invasive, but it could be addictive. Most people create a chart on their journal page and record readings at the same time every day, three times a day.

Blood pressure cuff

Your blood pressure is just as important as your oxygen saturation, and it also monitors your heart rate. Learning to use a cuff is easier than you might think.

If you have large upper arms like me, your cuff can be placed below your elbow. This trick I learned from my nurses makes it far more comfortable for me to use daily.

You will see a pattern emerge once you begin to track your numbers. Only after you have learned about your regular patterns will you know when they change. You are gathering vital evidence-based information to pass on to your doctor.

Air quality

Don’t overlook your environment and how its changes affect your breathing. Notice your altitude, the humidity around you, and particulate matter in your environment.

Air quality is about the air we breathe in our environment. It gives us a heads-up when it is unhealthy to go out.

Having an air quality app as your guide lets you prepare for the environmental changes happening daily. Dust and dander are a big deal in how we breathe. Persons with heart and lung disease are often warned separately for good and bad days.

Diet

The things you eat can make your symptoms better or worse. I have inflammatory diseases: rheumatoid arthritis and heart failure.

Heart failure requires you to stay drier because too much water retention disrupts your breathing, and too much water puts extreme pressure on your joints. However, COPD requires at least six 8-ounce glasses of water daily.

The more hydrated your body is, the thinner your mucus helps you clear that mucus and move it up and out. Monitor your meals and what you eat to determine how you react to your consumption.

At every doctor's visit, I greet him with, "This is what has happened since my last visit." I will provide all of the numbers that I have been tracking, and we can work together from there.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on January 7th, 2024, Barbara Moore passed away. Barbara’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. She will be deeply missed.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

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

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.

Community Poll

Are you able to tell when you’re having a COPD exacerbation?