The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Signs and symptoms of COPD typically start to appear in people in their 40s and 50s. Shortness of breath, chronic cough and tightness in the chest are the symptoms reported most often. At age 60 and beyond, COPD does the most damage. Older patients often require supplemental oxygen and lose over 50 percent of lung function.
The Lung Institute is committed to improving the lives of people suffering from lung disease, so we have put together a few COPD management tips and resources to help people with COPD and other forms of lung disease avoid flare-ups.
One of the most important things someone with lung disease can do is stay active. For those unaccustomed to exercise, it may be best to start small by walking around the house instead of sitting on the couch. Medications and emergency inhalers should be kept at hand. Exercise promotes lung function, and the more someone can build up his or her lung function, the better. Those who haven’t been active for a while can try some beginner exercises. Always consult with a primary care physician before starting an exercise regime.
Eat Healthy Foods
Diet has a huge effect on health and how we feel. A recent study published in the European Respiratory Journal stated that a diet rich in antioxidants may protect against the progression of COPD and even improve lung function. Foods rich in antioxidants include grapes, blueberries, nuts, dark green veggies, sweet potatoes, tea, whole grains and fish. It can be difficult to eat while short of breath, and many people with COPD find it easier to eat several smaller meals throughout the day. It’s also important to stay hydrated to keep mucus thin.
For those who feel stressed, experts recommend deep breathing to calm down. This can be frustrating advice when the thought of trying to take a deep breath may cause more stress. If we acknowledge the stress rather than trying to fight the feeling, we can do something to take our minds off of the stress. This means different things to different people. It might involve prayer, taking a walk, counting to 100, meditating, listening to music, writing in a journal or watching a good TV show.
Learning to live with COPD isn’t easy, but you’re not in this alone. Doing even one of the tips listed above can help you enjoy a better quality of life. Some people have found making a list of everything they are grateful for helpful in practicing positive thinking. You don’t have to start off doing everything at once. If it seems overwhelming, pick one positive action, and build from there.
Weather and Pollution Awareness
Unless we stay indoors indefinitely, there’s no way to avoid the weather all of the time. Unfortunately, both cold and hot weather can act as a COPD trigger. In the summer, keeping cool and hydrated are the keys to avoiding flare-ups. Try finding shade whenever possible, and keep a bottle of water available.
In the winter months, it’s best to stay cozy indoors, unless we live in a tropical climate or are dressed for the cold. Brisk air can cause shortness of breath followed by a coughing fit, so it’s best to limit outdoor time when it’s freezing outside.
We all know about outdoor pollution from things like burning fossil fuels, but many don’t know about indoor pollution, which can be far more dangerous to COPD sufferers. Pollutants such as mold, dust and fumes can cause a flare-up.
The flu scares even people who don’t suffer from a chronic lung disease. The best way to avoid this common illness is to get an annual flu vaccination. A new flu vaccine has been developed specifically for people 65 and older. This vaccine is 24.2% more effective in preventing flu for seniors than the previous version.
Stem Cell Therapy for Lung Disease
Along with these COPD management tips, the best way to avoid flare-ups is to find an effective treatment for lung disease. Stem cell therapy is an alternative option for treating lung disease that many have found effective in improving their quality of life. Unlike bronchodilators and supplemental oxygen which manage symptoms only, stem cell therapy seeks to treat the disease itself. Stem cell therapy uses a person’s own tissue to target lung disease by reintroducing one’s own stem cells into the body—cells with the potential to promote healing in the lungs.