What is COPD and How Can You Manage Symptoms?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD is an umbrella term that encompasses several progressive lung diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. In 2018, nearly 15.7 million Americans were living with COPD, but there are millions more who have gone undiagnosed. It commonly affects individuals aged 65 and older and can negatively impact quality of life.
As COPD progresses, it becomes harder to breathe. Many people first notice symptoms when they become out of breath after light exercise or climbing up a flight of stairs. Activities that used to be easier now cause coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath. Seniors may feel like they frequently have to clear their throat or cough, and that their chest becomes tight. These challenges can cause people to rethink how active they are and what activities they participate in.
Common risk factors for COPD include:
- Air pollution
- Jobs that involve inhaling dust, chemicals, fumes, or other irritants.
Your doctor will perform several tests and review imaging to assess your lung function and identify common signs of COPD. Early detection can help with managing symptoms before they become more severe.
Managing COPD Symptoms
There currently is no cure for COPD, but treatment and symptom management can help slow progression and improve quality of life. There are several steps you can take to enhance your breathing ability such as:
Cigarette smoke is filled with harmful chemicals and toxins that you then breathe into your lungs. This can damage your airway and the lining of your lungs making breathing more difficult. It can also destroy the tiny air sacs in your lungs that move oxygen in and out. This can exacerbate COPD symptoms and leave you with increased shortness of breath, chest tightness, coughing, and mucus production. Talk to your doctor about participating in a smoking cessation program to help reduce damage to your lungs. Avoid exposure to second-hand smoke as well.
Clean More Frequently
Minimize the amount of dust that accumulates in your home through regular cleaning. You can also get stronger air filters or an air purifier to help clean harmful particles out of the air and breathe a little easier. Pay attention to air quality reports too so you can plan accordingly and avoid days when the air quality is dangerous for sensitive groups.
It can be difficult to exercise and stay active when you have trouble breathing, but not exercising can make your COPD worse. Engage in activities that help to strengthen your lungs and improve oxygen circulation. Start slowly and work your way up as you are able, discussing any exercise plans with your doctor to stay safe. You may want to work with a respiratory therapist on ways to improve your lung capacity and minimize COPD symptoms.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
It may seem odd that diet affects COPD, but you need good nutrition to fuel your body. Plus, when your body breaks down different foods, it creates carbon dioxide that your lungs must then expel. Carbohydrates can produce a lot of carbon dioxide, so some people find a low-carb diet to be helpful. Limiting the amount of sodium you consume can be beneficial as well because sodium increases water retention which can put more pressure on your lungs.
Obesity can also have a negative effect because it requires more energy to carry around the extra weight, and your lungs and heart have to work harder to function. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet can help you manage your weight while giving your body the nutrients it needs to stay energized and combat infection.
An in-home caregiver in Bethlehem PA can provide the support you need to maintain your independence and follow healthier routines to help manage your COPD. From assisting with light housekeeping to meal preparation to running errands, having a caregiver there when you need them can be incredibly beneficial. Contact Always Best Care to schedule a free consultation and find out how you can benefit from in-home care when dealing with COPD.