5 Ways to Live Your Best Life With COPD
If you have recently been diagnosed with COPD, you probably have a lot of questions. You might also worry: “Will I ever live normally again?” It’s not only possible to live a relatively normal and long life with COPD, but with the right treatments, you should be able to continue doing most of what you love to do. Learning how to live your best life with COPD starts with learning to take care of yourself.
What Is COPD?
COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, but what does that mean? COPD is actually an umbrella term for a number of different conditions that cause damage and inflammation in your lungs and your airways, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. This long-term, progressive disease ultimately makes breathing difficult.
COPD is often slow to develop, so the early signs can sneak up and go unnoticed. As it progresses, COPD symptoms continue to worsen. Without treatment, it will impact daily activities. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to the signs of COPD and any indications that your condition might be getting worse.
COPD is usually characterized by these symptoms:
- Chest pressure or tightness: People with COPD often describe feeling like there’s an elephant sitting on their chest. You may experience tightness, a squeezing feeling, or feel like your chest is stiff and rigid.
- Chronic, persistent coughing: A chronic or persistent cough lasts two months or longer. This type of cough may interrupt your sleep and cause sore ribs, lightheadedness, or even vomiting.
- Fatigue: This early symptom is often written off as a sign of aging or insufficient rest. In the case of COPD, it’s a sign that your body isn’t getting the oxygen it needs.
- Frequent respiratory infections: Damaged lungs can’t clear out irritants and mucus properly. This can make you more prone to bacterial and viral respiratory infections.
- Mucus changes: Producing significantly more mucus than normal, or mucus that is a significantly different color than normal means your body is fighting an infection.
- Shortness of breath: You may feel like you’re struggling to breathe, hungry for breath, or just can’t get a deep enough breath to feel satiated.
- Wheezing: If you hear this high-pitched whistling sound when you inhale or exhale, it means that your airways are constricted or partially blocked by excess mucus.
While COPD has no cure and these symptoms certainly aren’t pleasant, they can be treated. In fact, with proper treatment, you can slow the progression of your COPD and live a fairly normal life. So how can you make sure that you can keep living your best life?
How to Maintain Your Quality of Life With COPD
Believe it or not, it’s possible to live your best life even while living with COPD. Here’s what to do to ensure that you maintain the best quality of life possible for as long as possible.
- Take care of your body. The better care you take of yourself, the better you’ll feel. That’s always true, but when you have COPD it’s essential to slowing the progression of your disease. Take control of your COPD by quitting smoking immediately if you smoke. Also make sure you eat a healthy diet, stay hydrated, get plenty of rest, and pay attention to your body.
- Stay healthy. Keep your body healthy with smart practices and great hygiene. Get your vaccinations, avoid sick people whenever possible, practice good hand hygiene, and keep your home tidy. Living with COPD during a pandemic is especially challenging, so make sure you wear a mask when you leave your home and pay attention to your mental health, too.
- Avoid common triggers. Avoiding triggers is key to feeling well. Certain triggers, like smoke, air pollution, extreme weather conditions, and lung irritants like dust, dander, fumes, and fragrances can make your symptoms worse. They can even trigger a serious flare-up of symptoms called a COPD exacerbation. Avoiding triggers protects your health, allowing you to participate more in your life.
- Follow your treatment plan. Treatment is a vital part of slowing the progression of COPD. Treatments—which usually include medication, pulmonary rehabilitation, and oxygen therapy—help treat your symptoms, but also prevent your condition from getting worse. Following your treatment plan is essential for preventing COPD exacerbations and for helping you live the best life possible.
- Get your exercise. Getting regular, moderate exercise is actually really important for your respiratory health with COPD. Even if breathing feels more difficult initially, regular exercise ultimately improves your breathing. If one of your treatments is oxygen therapy, you can absolutely exercise during supplemental oxygen treatments.
What Others Should Know About Living With COPD
A COPD diagnosis can be overwhelming, but with the right treatments and the tips above, you can still be active in your life. Even as the disease progresses and breathing gets more difficult, proper treatment helps mitigate the impacts of the COPD. The most important thing about living with COPD is to focus on living the best life you can.
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