Lifestyle and home remedies
If you have COPD, you can take steps to feel better and slow the damage to your lungs:
- Control your breathing. Talk to your doctor or respiratory therapist about techniques for breathing more efficiently throughout the day. Also be sure to discuss breathing positions and relaxation techniques that you can use when you're short of breath.
- Clear your airways. With COPD, mucus tends to collect in your air passages and can be difficult to clear. Controlled coughing, drinking plenty of water and using a humidifier may help.
- Exercise regularly. It may seem difficult to exercise when you have trouble breathing, but regular exercise can improve your overall strength and endurance and strengthen your respiratory muscles. Discuss with your doctor which activities are appropriate for you.
- Eat healthy foods. A healthy diet can help you maintain your strength. If you're underweight, your doctor may recommend nutritional supplements. If you're overweight, losing weight can significantly help your breathing, especially during times of exertion.
- Avoid smoke and air pollution. In addition to quitting smoking, it's important to avoid places where others smoke. Secondhand smoke may contribute to further lung damage. Other types of air pollution also can irritate your lungs.
- See your doctor regularly. Stick to your appointment schedule, even if you're feeling fine. It's important to steadily monitor your lung function. And be sure to get your annual flu vaccine in the fall to help prevent infections that can worsen your COPD. Ask your doctor when you need the pneumococcal vaccine. Let your doctor know if you have worsening symptoms or you notice signs of infection.
Coping and support
Living with COPD can be a challenge — especially as it becomes harder to catch your breath. You may have to give up some activities you previously enjoyed. Your family and friends may have difficulty adjusting to some of the changes.
It can help to share your fears and feelings with your family, friends and doctor. You may also want to consider joining a support group for people with COPD. And you may benefit from counseling or medication if you feel depressed or overwhelmed.
Unlike some diseases, COPD has a clear cause and a clear path of prevention. The majority of cases are directly related to cigarette smoking, and the best way to prevent COPD is to never smoke — or to stop smoking now.
If you're a longtime smoker, these simple statements may not seem so simple, especially if you've tried quitting — once, twice or many times before. But keep trying to quit. It's critical to find a tobacco cessation program that can help you quit for good. It's your best chance for preventing damage to your lungs.
Occupational exposure to chemical fumes and dust is another risk factor for COPD. If you work with this type of lung irritant, talk to your supervisor about the best ways to protect yourself, such as using respiratory protective equipment.
Aug. 11, 2017
- What is COPD? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/copd. Accessed Feb. 11, 2016.
- Ferri FF. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2016. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2016. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Feb. 11, 2016.
- Han MK, et al. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: Definition, clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and staging. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 15, 2016.
- Balkissoon R, et al. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: A concise review. Medical Clinics of North America. 2011;95:1125.
- Foreman M, et al. Genes and COPD. Medical Clinics of North America. 2012;96:699.
- Longo DL, et al., eds. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In: Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 19th ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Education; 2015. http://www.accessmedicine.com. Accessed Feb. 15, 2016.
- Pagon RA, et al., eds. Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. In: GeneReviews. Seattle, Wash.: University of Seattle, Washington; 1993-2016. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK1116. Accessed March 23, 2016.
- Hillas G, et al. Managing comorbidities in COPD. International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. 2015;10:95.
- Standards for the diagnosis and management of patients with COPD. American Thoracic Society. http://www.thoracic.org/copd-guidelines/index.php. Accessed March 23, 2016.
- Ferguson GT, et al. Management of stable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 15, 2016.
- Barbara Woodward Lips Patient Education Center. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2013.
- Riggin EA. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 22, 2016.
- Stoller JK. Management of exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 23, 2016.
- Mallea JM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla. April 26, 2016.
- What are the benefits of quitting smoking? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/smo/benefits. Accessed April 27, 2016.
- Jha P, et al. 21st-century hazards of smoking and benefits of cessation in the United States. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2013;368:341.