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How to Live Well with COPD: A Practical Guide for Patients and Caregivers

As a progressive disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), eventually leads to worsening lung damage and breathing difficulties. Unmitigated, it can make life very uncomfortable for sufferers, stealing time, energy and the ability to do the things they love. 

However, if you or a loved one are navigating life with COPD, there is hope. Living well is possible, as long as you find a way to manage symptoms and set up the right support system. In this guide, we will look at practical ways in which you or your loved one can live a rich life even with COPD. 

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Know how to recognize COPD

COPD is a progressive, inflammatory lung disease that prevents the flow of air through the lungs. Often accompanied by chronic bronchitis and emphysema, this disease is often the result of chronic irritation of the lungs caused by activities such as smoking or long-term exposure to certain irritants such as air pollution.

COPD occurs with a specific set of symptoms that arise as airflow is obstructed. Being able to recognize these symptoms can help you to catch the development of the disease earlier, and get a working treatment program in place to enhance your quality of life. Here are some of COPD‘s most common symptoms: 

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Chronic, productive cough
  • Swelling of legs and feet
  • Recurring respiratory infections
  • Extreme fatigue

If you or a loved one begins to experience these symptoms, a simple breathing test called a spirometry can help you identify the presence of the disease so you can begin to manage it. 

Establish a medication regimen that works

COPD has no cure, but there are many medications that can slow its progression. The right medication schedule can reduce your symptoms, allowing you to live your life the way you want for longer. Most COPD medications are inhaled, directly into the lungs, for fast and effective relief. These medications fall into two categories: 

Short-Acting Medications

Short-acting COPD medications can relieve COPD exacerbations and stop symptoms you are experiencing at the moment. You usually take these medications only when necessary. 

Long-Acting Medication

Long-acting medication for COPD delivers support that is ongoing. You usually take this medication every day, even when you are not experiencing symptoms. When used correctly, it can stop COPD symptoms from arising, or from being as severe when they do occur. 

The most effective way to set up a medication schedule that works is to partner with a professional, such as those at Pulmonary & Sleep Center of the Valley. These individuals use their years of experience to help you identify the right combination and timing of medications to maximize your quality of life with COPD. Once you have a schedule set up, follow these best practices to get the most out of your medication:

  • Create a visual schedule of when and what medications to take. 
  • Set an alarm to remind you to take your medications. 
  • Use a daily pill box. 
  • Ask someone you trust to help you stay on top of your schedule. 
  • Take your medication during another routine part of your day (i.e. Eating breakfast or brushing your teeth). 
  • Do not skip doses, even while traveling.
  • Alert your healthcare professional of any changes to your condition or symptoms. 

Setting up and following a schedule that you respond to can improve the management of your symptoms and slow the disease’s progression. 

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Create healthy daily habits

Medication isn’t the only tool available for preventing COPD exacerbations. A healthy and thoughtful lifestyle can also keep the disease from worsening and give you more time to do the things you love. Here are some healthy daily habits that can support your overall lung performance: 

  • Exercise daily to improve your lung capacity. Focus on gentle exercises that do not overextend your lungs. 
  • Quit smoking to prevent further lung damage that can worsen your COPD. 
  • Lose excess weight to help your body move with fewer oxygen requirements. 
  • Get vaccinated to avoid damage from respiratory illnesses like pneumonia and the flu. 
  • Eat well. Choose a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy protein, and low sodium to prevent swelling. 
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Use breathing techniques to manage breathlessness

Shortness of breath can be terrifying. In these moments, it is essential to remain calm and utilize specific breathing techniques to alleviate your symptoms. Here are some techniques you should learn now and try the next time COPD steals your breath away: 

  • Deep breathing
  • Breathing through pursed lips
  • Rhythmic breathing
  • Active cycle breathing to clear phlegm

Here at Pulmonary & Sleep Center of the Valley, our pulmonary specialists have a whole array of tools at their disposal to help you fight breathlessness. Let us help you create a plan that makes breathlessness more manageable. 

Set up a support team

You cannot combat COPD alone. There is a whole world of treatments, medications, and techniques that you can access, if you have the right professionals on your side. Whether you are a caregiver who needs help caring for a loved one, or a COPD patient trying to fight back your symptoms and embrace your daily life, we can help. Let us use our expertise to customize a treatment plan to your disease and your needs. It is time to sleep better. Will you let us help?