COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and the condition makes it hard to breathe. COPD often causes coughing, wheezing, a feeling of the chest being tight, and shortness of breath. Unfortunately, the disease gets worse over time.
A vast majority of people suffering COPD either smoke or used to smoke. Air pollution, dust, and chemical fumes can also contribute to the problems.
In the USA, the term includes emphysema, a condition where the walls between air sacs in the lungs are damaged, and chronic bronchitis, which means that the lining of the airways is irritated and inflamed. Most people diagnosed with COPD have both emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
Not being able to breathe is debilitating, and COPD is the third leading cause of death in the USA. Symptoms develop slowly, which means that many might have it and not know the root of their problems.
A person diagnosed with COPD can make some changes in lifestyle to feel better, stay active, and slow the progress of the disease. The most important, and often hardest, is to stop smoking. Also avoid secondhand smoke and places with dust and fumes. It is also important to keep a good diet. Many who suffer COPD have problems eating because of fatigue and trouble breathing. If the body doesn’t get all the calories and nutrients it needs, the symptoms can worsen quickly. Malnourishment also raises the risk for infections, and a person who already has trouble breathing does not need to come down with the flu!
Here are three tips for coping with COPD:
Many who suffer COPD also have sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or breathing that is too slow or shallow. If you feel unusually tired all day, have morning headaches, or fall asleep during the day, you might need a mask for continuous positive airway pressure.
Learn breathing exercises
Breathing out can be more difficult than breathing in, and if a person can’t breathe out properly air builds up in the lungs preventing them from expanding like they should. Pursed-lip breathing can help. Sit in a comfortable position and take a deep breath through the nose. Purse your lips as if you’re going to whistle, and breathe out. The breath out should be three times as long as the breath in. Don’t force the air; just let it come.
Diaphragm breathing can also help. This helps strengthen the diaphragm muscle, which means that the body will need to use less energy for breathing. Lie on the back with your knees bent. Keep one hand on your upper chest and the other on your stomach. When inhaling and exhaling, keep the chest as still as possible, and use the stomach. Practice for five to ten minutes three times every day.
Moving around is the last thing most people want to do when they can’t breathe, but it is also the most important thing for improving breathing and health. Staying in shape will help the body deliver oxygen more efficiently. It will also help your heart. Be mindful of your limits and don’t push yourself. Walking is great exercise. Stop to rest when you need to, and walk more when you’ve caught your breath.