The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Many people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have difficulty walking even short distances and sometimes have to rely on supplemental oxygen to breathe. The lack of oxygen that the body receives can be detrimental to the heart long-term, because your body has to work twice as hard to pump oxygenated blood throughout your system. Even though COPD affects many people, a common question we hear is “What is COPD?” We’re here to answer “what is COPD?” and to help you better understand your treatment options.
What is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a pulmonary condition that affects around 24 million people in the United States. It is a progressive disease, meaning it gets worse over time, and it is associated with shortness of breath and restriction of airflow.
While there isn’t a cure for COPD, there are treatment options available that may improve your quality of life. When treating a chronic, progressive disease such as COPD, the most important things to look at are:
1) How can treat the disease?
2) How can we support our bodies in managing the disease?
What Causes COPD?
The number one cause of COPD is smoking cigarettes. The toxins in cigarette smoke destroy lung tissue and cause inflammation. If you have been diagnosed with COPD and are still smoking, the most important thing you can do for your health and to improve your quality of life down the road is to quit smoking.
While not as common, there are causes of COPD other than smoking, including the genetic disorder alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, air pollutants and work hazards. The following professions are particularly at risk for developing a lung condition such as COPD: coal miners, industrial workers, tunnel workers, hard rock miners, cotton fiber miners, brick makers, construction workers, dock workers, flour and grain industry workers, petroleum workers, pottery/ceramic workers, quarry workers, rubber and plastic industry workers, textile workers, welders, cadmium workers and military service members.
What are the Symptoms of COPD?
The symptoms of COPD range depending on what stage of the disease you are in, which ranges from one to four, with one being the early stage. Some common symptoms include shortness of breath, frequent coughing, sleep apnea, wheezing and recurring upper respiratory infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis.
I’ve Been Diagnosed with COPD – Now What?
While there is nocure for COPD, the disease does not have to prevent you from enjoying your life. There are things you can do to help improve your quality of life.
First and foremost, the most important thing to do is consult with your primary care doctor and pulmonologist. Your doctor will provide you with a treatment plan and possibly medications and/or oxygen that are necessary for your health. After you and your doctor have developed a treatment plan, there are other things you can do to help improve both your mental and physical health.
Join a Support Group
One of the most common things we hear from folks who are diagnosed with COPD is that they experience feelings of shame, anxiety and depression. Oftentimes, people feel alone. Not allowing yourself to become isolated is key in maintaining a positive mental outlook. Many people with COPD find that joining a support group helps them to not feel so alone with their disease. After all, there are approximately 24 million people affected by the disease in the United States. You certainly are not alone. To find a support group, look for a local Better Breathers Club or visit www.copd-support.com for other groups.
Practice Meditation and Yoga
Many people have benefitted from relaxation practices such as meditation or yoga. Being diagnosed with an incurable disease like COPD can be incredibly discouraging. However, we cannot underestimate the power of our minds. Meditating for even just a minute a day may transform your life. Be sure to explore our meditation blog posts for tips on how to get started.
Eat a Healthy Diet
The foods that you put in your body can either work for you or work against you. Make it easier on your body by eating the right foods. Eating foods rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acid, Vitamin D and drinking plenty of water set your body up for success to better manage your respiratory health. Additionally, avoiding unhealthy foods is just as important. A few main foods to avoid include fried foods, soda, cold cuts and cured meats, food with excessive salt and cruciferous vegetables.
While the thought of exercising might not sound appealing, it is so important for strengthening your lungs. The key with exercise is to start slow. If you have never exercised before or are nervous about getting started, it’s always a good idea to check with your primary care doctor first. Incorporating more movement into your life, even if it’s just walking in place for a few minutes while watching TV, is better than doing nothing. Start small and be proud of yourself for what you accomplish.
If you’re thinking about starting a new exercise plan, read our plan on starting an exercise program after consulting with your primary care physician.
Explore your Options
As you can see, there are many things that you can do to help improve your health. You don’t have to give up because you have COPD. In fact, you can still live a very happy and fulfilling life.
At the Lung Institute, we specialize in treating COPD patients using stem cell therapy with cells that are taken from your own body. While stem cell therapy is not a cure for COPD, in many cases, it has helped to improve patients’ quality of life. If you’re interested in learning more about stem cell therapy, contact us today.