COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
Living With COPD
When you manage COPD, you:
- Quit smoking.
- Take steps to improve your ability to breathe.
- Eat well and stay active.
- Learn all you can about COPD.
- Get support from your family and friends.
It's never too late to quit smoking. No matter how long you have had COPD or how serious it is, quitting smoking will help slow down the disease and improve your quality of life.
Although lung damage that already has occurred doesn't reverse, quitting smoking can slow down how quickly your COPD symptoms get worse.
One Man's Story:
"I tried to quit cold turkey, but after just a few days I could tell that wasn't going to work. I realized that I needed to try something else. So I tried the patch, and that made a big difference. I can feel a difference in my breathing. And I feel hopeful that quitting will give me a few more years on my feet."—Ned
You may think that nothing can help you quit. But today there are several treatments shown to be very good at helping people stop smoking. They include:
- Reference Nicotine replacement therapy.
- The medicines Reference bupropion (Wellbutrin or Zyban) and Reference varenicline (Chantix).
- Support groups.
Today's medicines offer lots of help for people who want to quit. You will double your chances of quitting even if medicine is the only treatment you use to quit, but your odds get even better when you combine medicine and other quit strategies, such as counseling.Reference 9
For more information, see the topic Reference Quitting Smoking.
Make breathing easier
Do all you can to make breathing easier.
- Avoid conditions that may irritate your lungs, such as indoor and outdoor air pollution, smog, cold dry air, hot humid air, and high altitudes.
- Take rest breaks. Schedule short rest breaks during household chores and other activities. An occupational or physical therapist can help you find ways to do everyday activities with less effort.
- Stay as active as possible, and get regular exercise. Try to do activities and exercises that build muscle strength and help your Reference cardiovascular system Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window. If you get out of breath, wait until your breathing returns to normal before continuing.
- Learn breath training techniques to improve airflow in and out of your lungs.
- Learn ways to clear your lungs that can help you save energy and oxygen.
- Discuss Reference pulmonary rehabilitation with your doctor.
- Take the medicines prescribed by your doctor. If you use a metered-dose Reference inhaler Opens New Window (MDI), be sure you know how to use it properly.
One Man's Story:
"There was a time when I couldn't take 10 steps without running out of breath. Now I walk an hour around my neighborhood every day—without needing my oxygen. I feel better than I have in years."—Cal
Good nutrition is important to keep up your strength and health. Problems with Reference muscle weakness and weight loss are common in people with severe COPD. People with COPD who are very underweight, especially those with emphysema, are at higher risk of early death than are people with COPD who have a normal weight.Reference 10
Seek education and support
Treating more than the disease and its symptoms is very important. You also need:
- Education. Educating yourself and your family about COPD and your treatment program helps you and your family cope with your lung disease.
- Counseling and support. Shortness of breath may reduce your activity level and make you feel socially isolated because you cannot enjoy activities with your family and friends. You should be able to lead a full life and be Reference sexually active. Counseling and support groups can help you learn to live with COPD.
- A support network of family, friends, and health professionals. Learning that you have a disease that may shorten your life can trigger Reference depression Opens New Window or grieving. Anxiety can make your symptoms worse and can trigger flare-ups or make them last longer. Support from family and friends can reduce anxiety and stress and make it easier to live with COPD.
- Your treatment plan. Following a treatment plan will make you feel better and less likely to become depressed. A self-reward system—such as a night out to eat after staying on your medicine and exercise schedule for a week—can help keep you motivated.
One Woman's Story:
"Not being the person I used to be—it makes me really sad sometimes. There are lots of days I don't want to even get up, but then I think about taking my walk or seeing my friends, and I want get out there. COPD may slow me down, but it isn't going to stop me."—Sarah
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference October 16, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Reference Ken Y. Yoneda, MD - Pulmonology