Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic inflammatory lung condition that causes diminished or obstructed airflow. Typical symptoms of COPD include breathing difficulty, chronic coughing, chronic production of mucus, and wheezing. COPD is a progressive disease which not only interferes with an individual’s quality of life but increases risk of heart disease, lung cancer, and a variety of other conditions.
The two most common conditions associated with COPD are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Emphysema is characterized by the destruction of specific parts of the lungs. Chronic bronchitis is characterized by an inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes. In either case, the air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs are affected, either via destruction (with emphysema) or obstruction (with chronic bronchitis).
Although there is no cure for COPD, early medical intervention can significantly improve a person’s quality of life, slow down the progression of this disease, and help people live longer and healthier lives. Along with appropriate medical guidance, there are several commonsense steps that can be taken to help manage this disease.
1. Quit Smoking
Smoking is the leading cause of COPD in the United States. It is estimated that approximately 90% of all COPD-related deaths are caused by smoking. Quitting the habit is therefore the most effective action a person with COPD can take to slow the progression of the disease. Numerous studies have shown that smoking not only helps cause COPD, but continued smoking after being diagnosed with COPD hastens the decline of lung function and increase an individual’s risk of death. Moreover, smoking reduces the ability of steroid medications to effectively treat COPD.
2. Avoid Lung Irritants
Many lung irritants cause COPD. And for people who have already been diagnosed with the disease, these irritants can significantly exacerbate it. Many paints, pesticides, and household cleaners will irritate a person’s lungs. Dust, and the hair or dander from pets are also common irritants.
It is therefore suggested that people with COPD improve the air quality in their homes by installing a high quality air filtration system. It may also be extremely helpful to have one’s house or apartment cleaned carefully on a regular basis (with non-irritating cleaning products, of course) as well as having their sheets, blankets and pillows washed on a regular basis. People who have pets may face a difficult decision.
3. Avoid Stress
Numerous studies have shown that COPD symptoms are exacerbated by stress, anxiety, or depression. Stress tends to weaken the immune system, increasing the risk of illness and infection — in particular respiratory infection.
Taking steps to reduce anxiety or depression can help control COPD symptoms. It has also been shown that meditation, yoga, and other forms of “increased mindfulness” can help improve the symptoms of COPD. It is hypothesized that these meditative techniques help by reducing stress.
Seeking counseling on a regular basis, and if required, taking medications for anxiety or depression may also prove useful.
4. Maintain a Healthy Weight
This adiVce is usually intended to recommend weight loss, but this is not the case with COPD. People with COPD who are underweight have a far higher mortality rate than those who are overweight. Though obesity is obviously not a recommended goal, a healthy diet and weight can be extremely beneficial. In particular, the extreme fatigue, weakness, reduced lung capacity, and inability to exercise that are more commonly experienced by individuals with COPD who are underweight can be reversed by achieving a healthy weight.
Further, when a healthy diet is accompanied by an appropriate exercise program, the increased muscle strength can help control the symptoms of COPD.
5. Exercise — in Water, if Possible
As mentioned, exercise can help build muscle strength, endurance, and increased lung capacity. However, many people with COPD also have bone or muscle conditions that make exercise difficult or impossible. Consequently, it has been suggested that water-based exercises may be the most suitable and helpful type of exercise for people with COPD. In fact, a 2013 study demonstrated that water-based exercises increased both the exercise capacity of people with COPD as well as their quality of life. The study also showed that water-based exercises were more effective than land-based exercises (and certainly far more effective than no exercise).
6. Check with Your Doctor Before Taking Supplements
There are a variety of vitamins and minerals that are advertised as being beneficial for people with COPD. However, it is suggested that no vitamins or supplements be taken without a doctor’s approval.
While these commonsense steps can improve the quality of life of an individual with COPD, it is important to remember that
COPD is a serious, chronic, and progressive condition that requires expert medical assistance, such as the expert pulmonary program at Laurel Bay Health and Rehabilitation Center, in the scenic beach town of Keansburg, NJ.
At Laurel Bay, COPD and other pulmonary diseases are our specialty. Headed by leading pulmonary specialist Dr. Avtar Parhar, our program is the most highly advanced pulmonary rehabilitation program in Monmouth County. At Laurel Bay, we focus on restorative and preventive care for those who suffer with chronic respiratory disease.
Or better yet, come see for yourself. Contact us to schedule a tour by clicking here or by calling (372) 787-8100.