Ward Off Illness
There’s a reason that your physician recommends a flu shot every year!
If you have COPD, your lungs are compromised. Someone who has COPD can get a cold and have it escalate to pneumonia – quickly. Your physician’s recommendations for immunizations are important – they help to prevent illness from occurring in the first place!
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that people with COPD and asthma receive an annual flu vaccine. Also, they should have a pneumococcal vaccine to ward off pneumonia, a TDAP vaccine to prevent tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough, and a zoster vaccine to protect against shingles.
Regular handwashing is also one of the single most important things that you can do to prevent infection. Alcohol-based hand gels are also useful in most scenarios.
It may seem counterintuitive to recommend exercise to someone who has a breathing disorder. Besides, people with COPD are often fatigued – so it may not even be very considerate!
That being said, a regular exercise routine improves muscle tone and cardiac function. While this doesn’t exactly improve lung function, it does improve stamina and allows the oxygen to be delivered more efficiently to the muscles.
So, how do you do start an exercise routine, especially if you have been sedentary for quite some time? You should start off slowly.
According to the COPD Foundation, “Even if you think you can do more, take it slow. Your muscles are not used to working like that! Your exercise time and effort should gradually increase over time - each day, do a little more. When you’ve reached the point that you’re feeling better and breathing better, don’t stop. Keep it up at least three days a week.”
Walking is one of the most prescribed exercises for COPD – it can be done almost anywhere!
Eat for Health
A 2014 study found that people with lung diseases may have improved lung function and fewer COPD symptoms if their diets contained certain foods.
The study found that people who consumed fruit, fish, and dairy products saw the benefit. The researchers weren’t sure why, but one researcher, Corinne Hanson, stated that it could be the overall well-rounded diet. Also, much of the foods in these categories have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
In another study by Dr. Carlos Camargo of Harvard Medical School, study participants who consumed high amounts of fruits, vegetables, grains, and fish were less likely to develop COPD than their counterparts who ate sweets, red meats, and processed foods.
Both researchers agree that diet can play a huge role in chronic disease. Hanson stated, “I think the takeaway is that diet may be a modifiable factor for COPD patients. When we think about diet and disease, we usually think about heart disease and diabetes. But people with lung disease should be thinking about diet, too.”
Camargo echoes her sentiments. “The lesson that's emerging is that foods like fruits, vegetables and fish may be beneficial for lung health.”
The bottom line, in regards to diet? The studies have yet to be replicated, so the results are not proven, but it can’t hurt to up your intake of fruits and vegetables!
Consider Pulmonary Rehabilitation
You’d do physical therapy if you hurt your back, or if you got in a motor vehicle accident. Well, pulmonary rehabilitation is basically like physical therapy – but for your lungs!
Pulmonary rehab is a formal program that works on your fitness as well as your breathing.
The team helps you with exercise, breathing techniques, strategies for dealing with COPD, learning about medications, relaxation techniques, education about nutrition for COPD, and provide emotional support.
As you can see, pulmonary rehab is a multidisciplinary approach – therapists, social workers, and dietitians.
Pulmonary rehab is typically done on an outpatient basis, just like a physical therapy program. You need a referral from your physician, so if this sounds like a good idea to you (and it is!) have a chat with your physician.
Click here to find pulmonary rehab near you.
The Bottom Line…
We’ve covered a lot of tips that can improve your breathing. Taking your medications as prescribed is the most important.
If you’re having a hard time affording your medications, have an honest discussion with your physician about alternatives, perhaps ask to be in touch with a social worker or caseworker who can help you find resources, and maybe even apply for the financial assistance programs listed in this article.
All of the other tips are secondary – they will only work if you’re breathing in the first place. Please use try them out and utilize what works for you and set aside what doesn’t.