Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a chronic lung condition that affects millions of people all over the globe. The bad news is that it is has caused 3.17 million deaths in 2015, and continues to do so in increasing numbers every year. COPD is a progressive disease, which means that it develops over time and has no cure.
However, many COPD patients continue to live their lives the best they can—and this is made possible by doing significant changes in their lifestyle to hinder the progression of their disease.
The Goal of COPD Treatment
Although COPD cannot be completely cured, certain medical and lifestyle interventions need to be done in order to slow the decline in lung function caused by the disease and to strengthen the lungs over time. Specifically, COPD treatment is administered to relieve symptoms as well as to decrease the occurrence of acute episodes, which are called COPD exacerbations or flare-ups. Overall, COPD treatment just aims to improve the patient’s quality of life.
Smoking is the main reason why COPD patients get chronic bronchitis and emphysema, so quitting smoking should be their top priority when it comes to their lifestyle choices.
Some patients, however, may find it hard to quit, especially if they have been smoking for the most part of their lives. To help with nicotine withdrawal, your doctor may prescribe nicotine replacement interventions to gradually wean you from this addictive substance. Nicotine alternatives may come in the form of gum, patches, and inhalers. Prescription medication may also be an option to boost your smoking cessation efforts.
Switching to a Healthy Diet
For people with COPD, getting proper nutrition is highly essential. Nutrition plays an important role in keeping your immune system strong and your body organs to work properly. Try to eat a diet that consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and nuts, cutting back on sugar, processed foods, and red meat. Plant-based oils are also more preferable than animal fats. Known as the Mediterranean diet, this has been known to help in reducing chronic inflammation.
Avoiding Allergens and Irritants
Avoid allergens and other particles that can trigger symptoms and increase the risk of flare-ups. These allergens commonly include dust and dust mites, mold, pollen, and pet dander. While not every COPD patient may react from these allergens, it’s still best to steer clear from them, as well as from common irritants such as tobacco smoke, strong cleaning products, outdoor air pollution, paint fumes, pesticides, and strongly scented perfumes or soaps, among others.
As much as possible, make sure to keep the amount of allergens and irritants in your home or workplace at a minimum by consulting your family members and employer about it.
Contracting diseases such as the flu and pneumonia can lead to dangerous consequences for people with COPD. These can cause serious flare-ups that can be critical to one’s life. To prevent this from happening, COPD patients should get vaccinated for the flu and pneumonia. The flu vaccine should be taken every year, as the flu may change type year after year. Meanwhile, the pneumonia vaccine should be given every 5-7 years.
Preparing for Emergencies
When worse comes to worst, you should be able to get yourself emergency medical care, and this could be difficult if you are not familiar with the signs of a COPD flare-up. Do your research about your health condition or talk to your doctor about it. Keep your healthcare provider’s number handy in case your symptoms get worse or if any unusual ones come up. If emergency medications do not alleviate your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe oxygen therapy using medical oxygen sensors to normalize your O2 levels.
Self-care is an important factor in stopping the progression of COPD. Aside from collaborating with your doctor regarding any medications you need to take, take extra action to keep your health strong and your outlook positive.