The Should Do’s in a COPD World
Last updated: October 2022
You likely know that COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, an umbrella term that covers emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and the genetic form of COPD, Alpha-1 (Antitrypsin Deficiency).
What you should do if you have COPD
So, what should do in the life of someone with COPD? Why would someone care about the should-dos?
Hopefully, by following the should-do’s, a person can slow the progression of his/her disease.
Every person is different.
They are unique in their disease. Each person has his/her family history and medical history. Because of this, no two people are alike.
There are four stages of COPD.
- Very Severe or Stage 4
Realize that you can’t go backward in time.
If you smoked, you smoked. You can’t change yesterday, but you can change tomorrow.
If you are smoking, stop! Did you know that cigarette smoking is the #1 cause of COPD? Second-hand smoke can also contribute to your COPD. It’s important that you also avoid places of second-hand smoke and that you don't allow anyone to smoke anything inside your house.
Seek medical care if you are shortness of breath.
Your general physician can refer you to a pulmonologist (lung doctor).
Depending on the type of doctor you have, he/she will likely schedule you for a pulmonary function test (PFT), which helps to diagnose your COPD and let the doctor know what stage you are at. Your doctor may also run additional tests.
Possibly a CT Scan, a 6-minute walk, blood work, and arterial blood gas tell how oxygen is moving in your blood and how well it’s removing carbon dioxide. With the results of these tests, your doctor will likely give you the results of your testing. Do return for visits as requested by your doctor.
Take medication as prescribed.
Your doctor will prescribe the medication that will benefit you the most with your COPD.
Over time, your doctor might tweak your medication. If one medication isn’t working as it should within you, he/she might switch you to something else.
You must take your medication as directed. Be sure to let your doctor know any over-the-counter medications that you are taking, topical as well as oral or injected medications.
Some medications might have a negative effect or reaction to the other medications. Your pharmacist is another who can advise you on the compatibility of your medications if you aren’t seeing your doctor.
Proper nutrition is so very important.
Some people with COPD might find they are losing weight, even when they don’t want to be.
You will find this most often during the later stages of COPD. Breathing can also burn calories.
It happens that some people lose too much weight. It’s important to drink Boost or other protein drinks. Eating things with higher calories can help as well.
Vitamins are so very important as well. Discuss this with your doctor, who might advise you to talk with a nutritionist.
On the other side is obesity. These people are overweight and need to lose weight. Obese people can struggle more often with shortness of breath.
They might also have heart issues or even sleep apnea. Your doctor is best to advise you on the type of diet you should be on and the number of calories you should be taking in. Your doctor may also recommend that you talk with a nutritionist.
Exercise when you can.
Exercise is so very important for your overall health. It’s important to help build or the ability to keep your strength and muscles.
Muscle wasting can happen when you lose too much weight or lose it too fast. Strengthening your muscles can help you to breathe and to expand your lungs.
This can make you stronger. It can help your balance. You will have the strength to move your body, even to help you get in and out of chairs, beds, and toilets.
Support is so important to your overall health. Physical as well as emotional.
Where can you find support? A therapist; a face-to-face group such as Better Breathers; or even an internet support group, such as here in our community. You will likely talk with others coping with COPD and its challenges with any of these.
When I was young, diaries were so important. Then we had a tiny key to help keep our diaries private. It was never a thought that anyone would break into our “locked and protected” diary.
Sure enough, my brother and his friends got hold of it and could get into it so easily. My mom did too.
Now, we call it journaling. There is no lock and key. We know how important journaling can be for mental health.
It helps us learn to be honest about how we cope with this COPD disease. Because it’s been documented, I can look back for information that I have thoroughly documented.
It can help me to find inner peace because it shows me that I’m working to help myself. I can do so if I share this with others, even to discuss my posts.
I can even doodle in it! Sometimes it helps me to take the time to decipher my doodles. It's kind of fun to find out what the doodles tell me.
Can you think of any other should-dos with COPD?
What stage was your COPD diagnosed as?