Did you know that COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) affects 13 million Americans and that it is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S.? Not likely. Hence, due to the prevalence of the condition, everyone should know what COPD is and the challenges it presents. So, let’s begin.
What is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a very serious and progressive lung disease that partially blocks the airways and makes it hard to breathe. COPD develops when the lungs get damaged from smoking or other pollutants like chemicals or dust. Also, genes may play a role in COPD development.
And, although the damage caused cannot be reversed and COPD cured, there are numerous things patients can do to slow the progression, increase longevity, and improve the overall quality of life.
The Challenges of Living with COPD
Once patients get the diagnosis their lives change in many ways. In general, people living with COPD need more time and huge effort to complete daily tasks as they become very short of breath. Taking a shower, getting dress, climbing stairs, doing the washing up, etc. are only some examples of activities that COPD patients find challenging.
In other words, the disease gradually curtails the patient’s physical activity. As a result, patients just give up and avoid doing activities that make them feel miserable and out of breath. Eventually, they become homebound and unwilling to travel or even get out in their garden. In the end, such a way of living has a major impact on the quality of life.
Managing COPD and Improving Life Quality
First and foremost, as most COPD patients are smokers, they should immediately quit this bad habit. Namely, quitting smoking is the one intervention that has been proven to influence the natural course of the disease and slow down its progression. Plus, patients would feel better almost instantly, and in the long run, they will reduce the decline in lung function which will as a result increase longevity.
Next, COPD patients should consider pulmonary rehabilitation which is actually an important part of every COPD treatment plan. Pulmonary rehab is a formal program that aims to build patient’s fitness and help them breathe as well as they possibly can. Key elements of such programs include exercise and diet.
Luckily, different health care professionals can provide patients recommendations and counseling about disease management, nutrition, and exercise guidelines. For instance, you can ask a doctor, a respiratory therapist, a registered nutritionist, or a nurse to help you create your disease management plan.
The reason why nutrition is so important for managing the disease is that COPD patients burn 10 times the calories of other people, just to breathe. So, getting the nutrients needed and enough calories is vital to keep energy levels high, avoid infections, and keep breathing muscles strong, in COPD patients.
Finally, when it comes to exercising, the focus is on specific breathing techniques and exercises that may help COPD patients in various ways including improving the way the body uses oxygen, enhancing breathing, relieving other symptoms, strengthening the heart, lowering blood pressure, boosting circulation and energy, etc. That said, breathing exercises help COPD patients keep active, making it possible to do more of the activities they enjoy.
The bottom line, seeking professional medical help is crucial as soon as you notice shortness of breath that’s uncommon for you. Your doctor will first evaluate whether or not you have COPD and then recommend further medical treatment.