Breathing is central to so many parts of our day that life inevitably changes after a diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a long-term inflammatory condition that obstructs airflow from the lungs. If you are diagnosed with COPD, you may find it more challenging to do some of your favorite activities, which can feel discouraging. The good news is that COPD is a highly treatable condition, and simple lifestyle changes can vastly improve your quality of life. Here are five ways to experience a full life after a COPD diagnosis.
1. Quit smoking
There’s a reason it’s first on the list. Cigarette smoking is responsible for 85-90% of all COPD cases and as many as 8 out of 10 COPD-related deaths. Smoking cessation is the most important thing you can do to maintain a good quality of life and slow the progression of this lung disease.
Quitting can be challenging, so ask your doctor for smoking cessation resources to help make it easier. They may be able to prescribe nicotine replacement therapy to help with withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
Secondhand smoke exposure also contributes to COPD. Up to 1 in 4 people living with this lung disease have never smoked cigarettes. Even if you don’t smoke yourself, avoiding secondhand smoke at home or at work is critical to managing COPD.
2. Exercise often
Believe it or not, exercising when you are short of breath actually makes it easier to breathe because it strengthens your respiratory muscles. With frequent physical activity, the body learns how to use oxygen more efficiently. For people living with a lung disease like COPD, moderate exercise improves all of the following:
The body's use of oxygen
Anxiety, stress and depression
Shortness of breath
As you plan your new exercise routine, consider gentle exercises that don’t overexert the lungs like gardening, golfing, and slow walks. Your doctor can offer guidance on the best activities for your needs.
If you’re on supplemental oxygen, you’ll use it while exercising. Work with your doctor to adjust your oxygen flow rate as needed. Bring a rescue inhaler with you too in case symptoms flare up.
3. Eat healthy foods
Our diet can greatly impact our breathing. Various nutrients produce different levels of carbon dioxide as you metabolize them. Carbohydrates produce more while fat produces the least. For that reason, many people with COPD have found that a low-carb, high-fat diet leads to easier breathing. Here are three additional tips:
Being too full makes it difficult to breathe. Opt for 4-6 smaller meals throughout the day instead of heavier meals.
It’s important to stay hydrated, but limit the amount of liquids you consume with meals, since they can also make you feel full.
Avoid foods that cause gas or bloating.
4. Improve your indoor air quality
Cleaner air naturally makes for easier breathing. Beyond keeping your home a smoke-free zone, avoid perfumes, cleaning products, and personal care and hygiene products with strong odors. Instead, look for natural, non-toxic products. Air purifiers and vacuum cleaners with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter will also help clear the air.
5. Amp up your self-care
Living with a serious lung disease brings emotional challenges in addition to physical ones. It’s understandable to experience sadness, anxiety, or fear — sometimes all three at once. Do small things to take good care of yourself. Staying active, even on the days when exercise doesn’t seem appealing, can clear your mind. Journaling, breathing exercises, and meditation are great strategies to manage stress.
We’re here to support your COPD treatment plan
It’s important to have a strong support network, which looks different for each person. Whether sharing your experiences with close friends and family, joining a support group, or talking to a mental health professional, make sure you’re never alone in navigating life with COPD.
At Alto, we’re committed to making it as simple as possible to get the COPD medications you need. We offer same-day delivery and user-friendly medication management in our app. And our team of pharmacists are always here to answer your questions by phone or in-app messaging, and will even remind you when your inhaler or other medications are due for a refill. Reach out to learn how Alto can support your COPD treatment plan.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.