Managing a COPD diagnosis is never easy. Physical limitations and emotional challenges can take a toll.
However, there are a number of ways you can manage your condition– and improve your quality of life. See the top 4 strategies below:
Keep a simple log of your observations. This could be as simple as writing down the date, time, and a few short phrases about your actions and how you are feeling. It sounds simple, but doing this may help you notice patterns over time.
The following prompts may be helpful:
• Are there certain times of day you have flare-ups? Shortness of breath?
• How deeply can you breathe at various points throughout the day or night?
• What are your oxygen levels after you move?
• Are you able to complete household chores and activities as usual?
• Do you have a productive cough? When?
• How do you feel after your breathing treatments, such as your nebulizer or
• Are there times when you are consistently missing your medications?
• Are you noticing weight gain? Fatigue? Chest pain?
• How often are you changing air filters in your humidifiers, AC, and furnace? Do you notice any difference right after they are replaced?
After a couple of weeks or months, look at your log and try to determine patterns. Bring your log and observations to your medical appointments. Such detailed information can be invaluable as you work with your healthcare provider to determine a treatment plan that works for you.
Consider how to adjust your routine. COPD can cause coughing and muscle tension that quickly leaves you feeling exhausted.
Determine how you can conserve your energy so that you have the energy for activities you find most enjoyable and rewarding.
• If the heat triggers your condition, run errands in the morning or at night.
• If being outdoors in pollution seems to bother you, consider wearing a mask.
• If secondhand smoke triggers you, consider changing the venue of events when possible.
• If pollen bothers you, pay attention to the Air Quality Index, and when possible, save your errands for another day.
• If sleeping is a challenge, try sleeping on your side or elevated with pillows (as opposed to laying on your back.)
• If you find yourself running out of refills or having expired inhalers, put reminders on the calendar.
• If standing for long periods of time is a challenge, consider how to do tasks seated. For example, determine whether sitting while showering or peeling potatoes might make sense.
• Reorganize your home so that important items are easily within reach.
Change is never easy, but being adaptable can make a big difference in your quality of life. Consider how to simplify and adjust your routine so that you have energy for the activities you really enjoy. It makes a big difference!
You don’t have to run a marathon or lift weights to get good exercise in. Chat with your healthcare provider about these (or other) exercise options:
• Tai Chi, chair yoga, diaphragmatic (belly) breathing, or other exercises that emphasize breathing in conjunction with simple movements.
• Walking or water aerobics are also good choices.
• Even lifting light weights or cans of soup can get your blood flowing and build strength.
• No matter what exercise you choose, take your time, breathe in and out deeply, and listen to your body.
Although exercise may feel out of reach, doing even a little at a time oxygenates the blood, improves shortness of breath, and increases feelings of well-being. Movement can also help you maintain a healthy weight, often making breathing easier.
Most importantly, choose activities you enjoy. You will be much more likely to stick with them!
COPD can increase your likelihood of becoming ill with pneumonia, the flu, colds, or other respiratory infections. This can be alarming because it can make it more difficult to breathe.
Take extra precautions to avoid infections by doing the following:
• Be sure to clean your CPAP, BIPAP, or other equipment as directed.
• Stay up to date on your vaccines.
• If you are using more than 2 liters of oxygen, be sure to humidify your oxygen as directed by your healthcare provider.
• Avoid touching your face and wash your hands frequently.
• Learn ways to cough up mucus and practice them.
• Stop smoking. Your healthcare provider can provide resources to help.
All of these help you minimize complications caused by illness.
COPD can be a challenge, but small steps can make a big difference in your quality of life. Likewise, remember, no one can manage COPD alone. It is important to keep in mind that having a pulmonary team makes all the difference when you are managing a complex condition like COPD. Working with the right professionals can help you make the most of your life…even with a chronic lung condition. Lean into the support of your healthcare providers and communicate clearly about your observations, needs, and goals.
Mary Wade is proud to offer a full spectrum of pulmonary support services. Not only do we have a full-time pulmonologist on staff, but our robust team, including pulmonology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, as well as respiratory and speech therapy, ensures our patients receive a comprehensive treatment plan that helps them live better.
Our team employs cutting-edge, data-driven technologies, including Synchrony and Masstex Imaging, to provide patients with the best treatments possible. Our approach helps patients improve their lives, learn about their condition, and gain skills to help them manage their chronic lung condition.
Patients learn techniques for breathing retraining, exercise, energy conservation, medication management, emotional and social well-being, preventing infection, airway clearance, oxygen therapy, travel, as well as how to quit smoking. Mary Wade also hosts a monthly group that provides education, support, and community to participants.
Learn more about Mary Wade’s cutting-edge pulmonary rehabilitation program by clicking here.
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