The official blog of the Lung Institute.
If you’ve been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), your doctor will help you develop a long-term care plan. COPD is a progressive disease, and having a care plan in place is very important for your overall health and quality of life. In addition to taking medications that manage symptoms and flare-ups, there are several other things that you can do at home. In this post, we’re going to look at five elements of developing a care plan for COPD: breathing exercises, nutrition, emotional support, exercise and education.
Breathing exercises are a very important part of developing a care plan for COPD. COPD symptoms worsen over time, making it harder for you to accomplish daily tasks. Practicing breathing exercises regularly can help strengthen your lungs, making it easier to do daily activities with less exertion. This is also important for your heart health. When your heart and lungs are stronger, you don’t have to exert yourself as much. In fact, your strengthening your heart and lungs helps your heart pump oxygen throughout your body better.
Here are some common breathing exercises to try:
- Pursed lips breathing: Inhale through your nose, pucker your lips, and breathe out slowly through pursed lips.
- Diaphragmatic breathing: Lie on your back with one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Breathe in deeply and gently, feeling your abdomen expand. Exhale, lightly pushing on your stomach.
- Deep breathing: Breathe in deeply, hold your breath for a count of two, then exhale slowly.
In addition to breathing exercises, eating a healthy diet is another important element of your long-term care plan. People with COPD should closely monitor their weight. If you’re overweight, the extra weight is added strain on your body. However, in later stages of COPD, weight loss is a common symptom. Follow these general guidelines to maintain a healthy weight:
- Focus on protein, especially if you’re exercising regularly. Eat foods like eggs, cheese, lean meat, nuts, fish and beans.
- Eat smaller meals. Rather than eating three meals a day, try eating five smaller meals throughout the day.
- Reduce salt intake. Too much salt can cause fluid retention, which can make it harder to breathe.
An important element in developing a care plan for COPD is having emotional support. Suffering from a chronic condition like COPD can be hard on your mental state. In fact, getting a handle on the emotional impact of COPD is an important part of your care plan. For example, Fear of symptom flare-ups such as exacerbations can cause anxiety. Feelings of hopelessness and depression can also come hand in hand with a disease like COPD.
It’s normal to feel afraid, worried and anxious, especially when you’re coping with COPD. Below are some tips to help you.
Try these tips to help fight off negative emotions:
- Challenge negative thoughts. Pay attention to your thoughts, and whether they’re negative or positive. Sometimes our minds get on autopilot, and it takes consciously acknowledging our thoughts to change them. Remember, your mind can only handle one thought at a time. So, when you think something negative, such as I always feel terrible, replace it with something like, I do have good days, and with a good care plan, I can have more good days.
- Keep a journal. Sometimes just writing down how you’re feeling is a great way to release anxiety and depression. Keep a journal, and write down both negative and positive experiences.
- Join a support group. There are several COPD support groups, like Better Breathers Clubs, where you can talk with people who are going through similar experiences as you.
Regular exercise is important for reducing symptom flare-ups. However, it can be scary to think about exercising when you’re afraid of causing a flare-up. The truth is that inactivity can actually worsen COPD symptoms over time. If it’s been a while since you’ve worked out, talk with your primary care physician before starting a new exercise program.
Here are a few simple exercises to try:
- Walking. It’s OK to start slow. Even committing to walking for 30 seconds or 10 yards is better than nothing. If you can do more, do what you can. Start slow, and increase the duration of your exercise with time.
- Lift weights. You can start with soup cans if you don’t have weights at home. Lifting weights helps build your arm strength, which will help you with daily tasks of lifting a gallon of milk or grocery shopping, for example. In addition, this will reduce the strain on your body in the long run.
- Calf raises. Building muscle in your legs makes it easier for you to walk for longer periods of time. To start, you might choose to stand in front of a chair to help you keep your balance. Stand with your feet flat on the floor, then raise up onto your toes, and lower back down onto your heels. Repeat.
The old saying rings true: knowledge is power. In developing a care plan for COPD, the more you know about your condition, the more empowered you will be in managing the disease. You don’t have to fall victim to the disease, so learn everything that you can to help you feel better. And, when you feel confused, talk with your doctor about your questions.
Here are some good resources:
- Best COPD blogs. Each year, Healthline ranks the top COPD blogs based on how well they educate, inspire and empower readers. Visit these blogs for great information
- Books. There are several books written about COPD. Visit amazon.com and read the reviews before making a purchase. The Complete Guide to Understanding and Living with COPD: From a COPDer’s Perspective is available to purchase on Amazon, and is a great read because it is written by a person who has COPD.
Developing a Care Plan for COPD and You
Please comment below and let us know what has worked well for you in developing a care plan for COPD. If you are interested in learning about more treatment options, and how stem cell therapy may be an effective treatment for people with COPD, contact us today, and one of our patient coordinators will be happy to assist you.