Lifestyle Changes That Can Improve COPD

Living with COPD is often difficult, especially if you feel your COPD symptoms are worsening and you can't understand why. If your dyspnea is increasing, your cough becoming more frequent, and you are not having a COPD exacerbation, certain lifestyle changes may help you to feel better. Below are 10 lifestyle changes you should consider making if you have COPD. 


Quit Smoking

Quitting Smoking
Smoking is associated with Crohn's disease flare-ups, and quitting is the best course of action. Image ©

If you have COPD, the most important thing you can do for your health is quit smoking. Not only does smoking make COPD progress more rapidly, it can also lead to other smoking-related illnesses such as hypertension, heart disease, stroke, or cancer. If you want to quit, cold turkey is the best way to do it, but there are other methods available, like nicotine patches and medication, that are often more effective.


Start Exercising

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If you're spending most of your time immobilized, it's time to get up and get moving. Exercise has many benefits, including improved sleep quality, increased self-esteem, and improved overall quality of life. Many people with COPD have also shared that, with daily exercise and other lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, they are able to see an improvement in or at least maintain their current lung function.


Ditch the Junk Food

Eating Junk Food
Eating Junk Food. Photo courtesy of Getty Images, user John Rensten

Eating junk food or a diet filled with processed foods can negatively affect your COPD. Junk food contains loads of calories and fat, which can lead to weight gain and obesity. Being overweight can make breathing more difficult, especially if you have COPD.

In contrast, eating too little may lead to malnutrition and cachexia, both of which can contribute to premature death. Maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet is recommended for everyone, but is especially important for those with chronic illnesses


Practice Good Hygiene

Good hygiene - a great habit
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Although the two top causes of COPD exacerbation are lung infections and air pollution, many times, the cause is unknown. To lower your risk of COPD exacerbation, be sure to wash your hands and get any vaccinations your doctor may recommend. COPD exacerbation can lead to hospitalization and death, making it important to prevent or at least recognize when it's coming.


Take Your Medication

thyroid medication, not taking thyroid medication
What happens when you don't take your thyroid medication?. Tetra Images - Daniel Grill / Getty

Whether it's because you can't afford your medications or are having a hard time managing your condition, being non-compliant, or not adhering to your recommended COPD treatment plan, can have a direct impact on your quality of life. COPD may be incurable, but it is treatable.


Use Your Oxygen

Oxygen therapy
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Many people with COPD, who could benefit from long-term oxygen therapy, won't do so because they are embarrassed to be seen in public with an oxygen tank and nasal cannula. This can lead to social isolation and depression, lowering your overall well-being. Oxygen therapy has many benefits, including improving sleep, mood, and mental alertness.

Some studies have even shown that using oxygen for at least 15 hours per day can increase your survival rate. There are alternatives to the nasal cannula, so if you don't like your current delivery method, ask your doctor what other methods are available.


Avoid Your COPD Triggers

Woman with sinusitis caused by allergies
Woman with sinusitis caused by allergies. Maica/Getty Images

A trigger is anything you are exposed to that makes your COPD symptoms worse. Not everyone is going to react negatively to the same trigger. Triggers can be found indoors or outdoors. Once you identify what they are, the easier you can learn how to avoid them.


Prioritize Rest

Calories Maintain Our Body at Rest
We Burn 60% of Our Calories During Rest Periods. DigitalVision/Getty Images

Have you ever found yourself worn out before you have even started your day? Does your shortness of breath get so bad that you can't finish daily tasks that you used to be able to perform? If this sounds familiar, you may need to start pacing yourself so that you can conserve more energy. Not only will conserving your energy help you get through your day, but it will help you deal with the most frightening aspect of COPD―breathlessness.


Improve the Air Quality in Your Home

air duct cleaning
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Did you know that indoor air is sometimes more polluted than outdoor air? Improving the air quality in your home is not only important for those with chronic illnesses, it will also benefit the entire family, pets included. If you want to filter the air in your home, consider buying a HEPA filter. 


Avoid Stress

Meditation at home
Practicing meditation at home is easier when you have a good spot for it. Images

Chronic stress is related to a number of chronic illnesses including heart disease, stroke, and obesity. It can even make your COPD symptoms worse. Part of a healthy lifestyle includes stress reduction methods, like mindfulness or meditation, both of which can be incorporated into your daily life. 

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