The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Winter is coming.
Few people really love the cold. Often, many just become accustomed to it as a result of being born into the cold, and through that acclimation, begin to appreciate it and the little things that come along with it:
- Breaking out the winter coats.
- The enjoyment of warm foods and drinks.
- The holidays.
However, the cold isn’t good for everybody, which is why humans don’t live in Antarctica. In fact, life in the cold for those living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can be particularly difficult, given the inherently burdened state of those living with chronic lung disease. All of the symptoms that serve to comprise chronic lung disease—frequent coughing, reduced mobility, fatigue and shortness of breath—are greatly worsened in the presence of extreme cold.
So, what can you do?
Aside from a few treatment options to address the root causes of the disease, in terms of defending against the cold, there are some practical tips to follow to keep your health intact.
With your health in mind, the Lung Institute offers this information to help you Prepare for COPD and COLD Weather.
Dress in Layers
Although we’ve mentioned this before, with the harsher colds of the fall and winter season, it should come as no surprise that dressing in layers is a necessity. Not only will added layers such as undergarments, long johns, sweaters, coats, hats—and perhaps most importantly, cold weather masks—help with blood circulation, it also allows you to breathe better.
As your body becomes colder, your circulation begins to slow down, drawing blood (and therefore heat) from your lower extremities as your body attempts to bring blood back to the areas that need it most (your heart and center of mass). Keeping your body warm aids in this circulation, allowing your body to maintain its proper temperature, and ultimately helping you breathe better.
Switch Your Diet Up (soups, teas, no alcohol)
One of the nice benefits of cold-weather temperatures is that you tend to want and enjoy hotter foods. For those with COPD where diet and daily nutrition are more important than the average adult, this can present an incredible opportunity to get key vitamins and nutrients through unconventional means.
For example, you may add various soups to your diet (such as black bean soup—a great source of protein). You can also add steamed vegetables and red sauce pastas to your typical dinner menu. This will help cut back on your meat consumption—which is always a good thing—while still giving you warmer, nutritious meals during the winter.
As for liquids. Drop the alcohol consumption if you can. Alcohol has the nasty effect of constricting the blood vessels which can make you feel warmer, but it’s only condensing your blood to your center, leaving your extremities (toes and fingers to fend for themselves.)
Instead, try drinking more tea. While a nice lemon tea will help loosen phlegm and improve breathing, several cups of green tea a day has been shown to increase the life expectancy of the average adult.
Keep Your Home Warm (space heaters, run your fan)
After coming back inside the house from the cold, it’s important your home is warm. However, there are a few things to consider to stay warm as well as safe. For starters, if possible, do not burn wood at a stove or inside the home. Not only can this be a dangerous practice, but the smoke it creates can further exacerbate symptoms of COPD. In general, when living with chronic lung disease, smoke of any kind should be avoided.
So, how do I keep my home heated?
If you don’t have a furnace that you can use to control the temperature, use an electric space heater, just don’t leave it next to anything flammable. This is a much safer alternative than using a wood-burning stove or fireplace.
The Dangerous Effects of Cold Weather on COPD
As we’ve previously mentioned, continued exposure to cold weather isn’t good for anyone, let alone those with COPD. Cold weather can decrease mobility and further the spread of disease. In cold weather there is an increase in hospital admissions and clinic visits for those with COPD. In fact, cold weather does have a significant effect on your lungs, particularly after chronic exposure.
However, perhaps most dangerous to the body in the presence of cold weather, is the effect this climate has on the heart. As temperatures begin to drop to extreme lows (below zero Fahrenheit), the blood vessels of the heart begin to narrow, ultimately restricting blood flow and depriving the heart of precious oxygen. As the narrowing of the blood vessels causes them to shrink, your heart has to pump blood harder leading to an increase in blood pressure as well.
Aside from the direct effects of cold weather on the body, the wind that often accompanies cold weather can serve as a force of physical resistance, making you work harder to move and thus making breathing more difficult.
Moving Forward with the Next Steps
When in doubt, do your best to avoid the cold as much as possible, prolonged time outside in extreme cold weather can have damaging effects to your respiratory system. However, when lifestyle changes fail to improve your quality of life, it may be time to consider stem cell therapy. Rather than addressing the symptoms of lung disease, stem cell therapy may directly affect disease progression and may improve quality of life.
For more information on stem cell therapy and what it could mean for your life moving forward, contact us today or call us at (800) 729-3065. Our patient coordinators will walk you through our available treatment options, talk through your current health and medical history and determine a qualifying treatment plan that works best for you.
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