Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a challenge, but it isn’t one that needs to get in the way of a normal life. With a good diet, proper care, and some patience, you can live with it.
You’ve probably noticed that exercising is harder. You may get more infections. You might even wake up some mornings gasping for air.
But you have any number of ways that you can manage these challenges. Consider these tips for everyday living with COPD:
Improve Your Breathing
With COPD, your lungs might have been hurt by things like smoke, air pollution, and aging over the years. Now, they may not be so “springy” and can’t move enough oxygen to your blood. So the biggest challenge to life with COPD is often lack of oxygen.
One way to counter that is to start with breathing exercises. Not only do they increase the oxygen in your system, they can help lessen any anxiety you might feel.
There are two key breathing exercises you should try:
- Pursed-lips breathing. Breathe in through your nose for 2 seconds. Pucker your lips. Blow air through your mouth for about 5 seconds. This exercise slows your breathing, keeps your airways open, and helps boost oxygen.
- Abdominal (diaphragmatic) breathing. Relax your shoulders. Put one hand on your heart and the other on your stomach. Inhale through your nose, making sure your stomach expands. Slowly breathe out through pursed lips, pressing on your belly.
Relax your body before doing these exercises, and be sure to repeat them several times.
You already know that exercise is good for you. It improves sleep, helps weight loss, and keeps you fit. But maybe you thought you couldn’t exercise if you have COPD. That isn’t the case. Among the exercises you can do are:
- Stretching. Hold a stretch for 10 to 30 seconds a few times a day. Use the breathing exercises. You can do stretches as an exercise or use them as a warm-up and cool-down before and after exercise. Stretches improve flexibility, prevent injury, and get your heart pumping.
- Aerobics. This doesn’t have to be a high-intensity workout. A 30-minute walk or swim a few times a week can boost the amount of oxygen in your system.
- Resistance. Strength exercises -- which you can do with exercise bands, weights, or even working against your own muscle resistance (isometrics) -- build muscles and ease breathing.
Talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program. He’ll tell you if you should use a breathing device and how to pace yourself. (Start slowly!)
Make sure you follow your doctor’s directions on when to use your oxygen.
What About Sex?
This good form of exercise is also one of the most fun. But prepare yourself a bit:
- Don’t have sex after a big meal or after you drink alcohol.
- Keep the room cool.
- Let your partner be more active.
- If you use oxygen, don’t cut back. In fact, keep it on the entire time. In addition, use an inhaler about 5 minutes before you start. It will reduce wheezing.
Don’t exercise or have sex if you have a fever or nausea, feel chest pain, or are out of oxygen.
Diet is equally key to managing your COPD.
For starters, eat right. A dietitian’s advice may help. Follow a high-fiber diet -- about 20 to 35 grams a day -- with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, bran, and pasta. Foods that are high in fiber take longer to digest and help control glucose levels.
Some other nutrition tips to remember:
- Keep a good body weight. The issues of being overweight are well known, but being underweight is also bad for your health. When you have COPD, it can drain your energy and make it easier for you to get infections.
- Cut the salt, and drink plenty of fluids. They help keep your mucus thin. A low-salt diet means you don’t retain those fluids.
- Get plenty of calcium and vitamin D. As they say in the milk ads, those vitamins and minerals keep your bones strong.
- To keep energy levels high, eat lots of small meals instead of one big one, avoid junk-food snacks, and do some light exercise before you eat.
You didn’t get COPD overnight. The condition took years to take root -- and there’s no cure. But if you start slowly with these tips and don’t push yourself too fast, you should have an easier time with it.