Canada Med Stop

How to Live Well with COPD

Friday 29 January 2021

Table of Contents

I. What is COPD?

II. Cut Smoking Out of Your Life

III. Stay Up to Date With Vaccinations

IV. New Breathing Techniques

V. Eat Smaller Meals

VI. Keep Medications on Hand

What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a long-term lung disorder that can significantly impact your quality of life. Having COPD can lead to more serious complications, including heart disease and lung cancer. COPD and emphysema often occur together and lead to an inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes.

Over time, COPD may worsen and inhibit everyday activities, so it is essential to get your symptoms under control and reduce your risk of any associated conditions. Your doctor may prescribe Stiolto Respimat, ipratropium/albuterol inhaler, Daliresp (roflumilast), or Atrovent (ipratropium). Along with medication, you can implement several activities in your everyday life to reduce your symptom severity. [1]

Cut Smoking Out of Your Life

Smoking is the number one risk factor for COPD. Many people with COPD have had long-term exposure to lung irritants, which is most commonly cigarette smoke. Secondhand smoke can also contribute to COPD. Around eight of 10 COPD-related deaths are related to smoking.

a person holding a cigarette

There is a misconception that e-cigarettes are healthier than traditional cigarettes, but this is not the case. They may not contain tar, but the ingredients in the flavorings are not healthy for the body to ingest. There is not much research surrounding the use of e-cigarettes, so you may want to avoid them if you are at risk for COPD. If you do want to quit smoking, your doctor may prescribe nicotine gum or patches. [2] 

Stay Up to Date With Vaccinations

A seasonal cold or flu may exacerbate COPD. If you have COPD, you may want to stay on top of your vaccination schedule and get a yearly flu vaccine. You may also want to get the pneumonia vaccine at least once before the age of 65. After 65, you may have to get booster doses of the pneumonia vaccine.

The TDAP vaccine can also protect against tetanus and diphtheria. Children receive this vaccine, but boosters are needed throughout a person’s life. COPD patients can take a whooping cough vaccine along with the TDAP to prevent exacerbating COPD symptoms. If you are over 60 years old, the shingles vaccine can also help minimize your risk of developing COPD complications. [3]

New Breathing Techniques

Those with COPD often have shortness of breath. If this is a common symptom you experience with COPD, two breathing techniques may help. You may need to work with a pulmonary rehabilitation specialist to teach you how to use these exercises properly. 

Pursed-lip breathing: This exercise involves breathing through the nose and out through pursed lips. Purse your lips and exhale softly for twice the amount of time you inhaled. When you exhale through pursed lips, there is increased resistance in the airways, which allows them to stay open during exhalation. If shortness of breath occurs, you can use this technique to control your breathing and get more blood to the lungs. It also helps calm you down and slow your breathing. 

a woman breathing on a yoga mat

Diaphragmatic breathing: This exercise strengthens your diaphragm, located under your lungs, and helps expel air from the lungs when you breathe. When someone has COPD, the air gets trapped in the lungs, rendering the diaphragm less functional. You can lay on your back and place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly. When you breathe, push out your stomach muscles, so the chest doesn’t move. Purse your lips and contract your stomach muscles when you exhale. Over time, diaphragmatic breathing can lead to a stronger diaphragm. [4]

Eat Smaller Meals

Many doctors recommend that COPD patients eat 5-6 smaller meals a day. Smaller meals are recommended because larger meals require more energy to digest. Light portions can also prevent a full stomach from putting pressure on the lungs and breathing muscles that make it harder to breathe. Small meals can also lessen indigestion and heartburn. You may want to incorporate the following high-fiber foods into your diet if you have COPD:

  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Fruits
  • Peas and beans
  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables
  • Bran [5]

various vegetables stacked up on each other

Keep Medications on Hand

If you are prescribed medications for your COPD condition, you want to make sure all of your prescriptions are up to date. Your doctor may prescribe Stiolto Respimat, ipratropium/albuterol inhaler, Daliresp (roflumilast), or Atrovent (ipratropium) to treat long-term effects of COPD. All of these drugs are maintenance medications that should be taken daily to prevent symptoms of COPD. Talk to your doctor to learn more about taking your medication because each one has a different routine and dosage.

Along with a maintenance medication, you will likely have a short-acting beta-agonist or a rescue medication if you have sudden COPD symptoms. You may also use your rescue inhaler if you have excess saliva or mucus buildup in your throat. If you use your rescue inhaler excessively, you may want to talk to your doctor about your treatment plan to ensure your maintenance medicines are working properly. [3]

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.