Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a lung disease that is caused due to the poor airflow that makes breathing difficult. This progressive disease is also known as chronic obstructive airway disease and chronic obstructive lung disease. According to a study conducted by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States. This alarming issue is more likely to occur in men than in women.
Main Causes of COPD
The prime cause of COPD is smoking. But there are various other causes which lead to this disease. It is mainly due to the long-term exposure of the following,
- Secondhand smoke
- Lung irritants like air pollution
- Chemical fumes
- Dust from the environment or workplace
- Rarely genetic condition called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency
Symptoms of COPD
COPD may be characterized by no symptoms or mild symptoms in the initial stages. Over the time, the symptoms may worsen causing the following,
- Persistent cough that produces lot of mucus
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
- Lack of energy
- Weight loss
- Frequent colds
If not controlled in the initial stages itself, COPD may lead to several other health complications such as,
- Respiratory infections
- High blood pressure
- Heart problems
- Lung cancer
Lung damage caused due to COPD is irreversible. However, certain lifestyle changes, medicines and natural remedies can help in controlling the symptoms. It also helps in minimizing any further damage to the lungs. It is important to get it diagnosed by the doctor and start treatment to prevent complications.
Top Ways to Deal with COPD
The following are the top ways to deal with COPD.
1. Quit Smoking
The first thing any COPD patient must do is to quit smoking. Giving up smoking can help in managing the condition and improve the quality of life. Cigarette smoke contains thousands of harmful chemicals and toxins that when inhaled, affects the lungs adversely. Over time, these toxins can cause abnormal lung irritation leading to the onset of COPD. One should get professional help to quit smoking. There are many resources available that help in quitting such harmful habits.
2. Stay Away from Lung Irritants
One should limit the exposure to lung irritants such as secondhand smoke and other air pollutants. Irritants like dust, pollen, smog, pet dander and chemicals from cleaning products, paint or textiles can cause flare-ups. Even the synthetic fragrances used in air fresheners emit toxins that are not good for the lungs. The following things must be avoided in order to treat COPD effectively.
- Avoid smoking areas
- Avoid being around people who smoke a lot
- Avoid highly polluted areas
- Avoid industrialized areas
- Remain indoors during high levels of smog
- Use air purifier to purify the indoor air
- Keep indoor plants to improve the air quality
- Limit the physical activity or exercise while outdoors
- Wear respiratory masks to protect the lungs from irritants
3. Avoid Extreme Wear
Even the slightest change in the weather or temperature may trigger COPD symptoms such as shortness of breath, cough and phlegm production. When the weather changes from hot to humid or cold, it brings on breathing issues. It is not possible to control the climate but managing the indoor atmosphere is in our hands.
- During hot and humid weather, it is good to stay in a cool, air-conditioned environment
- Try to finish all outdoor activities before afternoon or keep it for the evening
- During cold weather, wear a scarf or face mask
- Stay in comfortably warm room and wear warm clothes to keep the body warm
4. Avoid Respiratory Infections
People affected by COPD are more prone to bacterial and viral infection. Harmful bacteria and viruses can lead to the breakdown in the lining of the windpipe. This leads to inflammation and breathing problems. Also it can cause serious complications in people suffering from lung disease.
- Annual flu and pneumonia vaccines must be administered to patients with progressive lung disease
- Follow good hand-washing hygiene rules
- Cover the nose and mouth with a clean cloth while coughing or sneezing
- Avoid crowded places when suffering from flu or cold
- Drink plenty of water
- Using humidifiers can also help
- In case of infection, consult the doctor immediately
5. Breathing Exercises
Breathing exercises can help in improving breathing in people suffering from COPD. According to a study conducted by American Association for Respiratory Care, pursed-lip breathing and diaphragmatic breathing are very helpful in treating COPD.
- Pursed-lip breathing is a simple exercise to control the shortness of breath
- It encourages relaxation, relieves anxiety and makes it easier to breathe normally
- Diaphragmatic breathing is also known as deep breathing, strengthens the diaphragm muscles to ease the difficulty in breathing.
- This also helps requires less efforts and energy while breathing
6. Exercise Regularly
It could be hard to exercise with COPD symptoms, but regular physical exercise can strengthen the muscles to help in breathing properly and improve the overall wellness. Regular exercise has multiple benefits to the body such as improving energy levels and blood circulation. According to a study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, moderate to high levels of regular physical activity could reduce lung function decline and COPD risk among smokers.
- The following are the different types of exercises that a person with COPD can do,
- Cardiovascular exercise that involves steady aerobic activity
- Strengthening or resistance exercises that strengthens the respiratory muscles
- Stretching and flexibility exercises like yoga that improves breathing
The above lifestyle changes are extremely helpful in coping up with COPD. But along with this, it is essential to take regular treatment after getting diagnosed with COPD.
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