It takes years for COPD to fully manifest through diseases such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It's most common in seniors, and symptoms usually appear around age 40 or older. While it's progressive in nature, meaning it will continue to develop over time, you can take steps to improve the quality of your life even with the disease.
One of the effects of COPD is hypoxemia, which is a drop in blood oxygen levels. When this happens, it can leave you feeling fatigued, disoriented and short of breath. Studies show that oxygen therapy can help treat hypoxemia in the short term. While some with COPD may only require oxygen therapy from time to time, more severe cases may require the permanent use of oxygen. For seniors with COPD, this is an important consideration in terms of mobility and where they choose to live.
Smoking is the leading cause of COPD and a major contributor to the speed of the progression of the disease. While stopping smoking might not prevent the disease from progressing any further, it can slow down this progression and improve your quality of life. Furthermore, smoking is also known to contribute to other medical complications, such as cancer, stroke and diabetes. Smoking also happens to be a trigger for a COPD flare, which makes the condition worse. During these flares, you may cough more, have more trouble breathing and find it difficult to sleep.
A good diet is important for overall health and well-being. Choose a healthy, nutritious diet to improve your immune system to reduce the chances of getting sick. According to the American Lung Association, certain foods might also improve your breathing. For instance, a diet higher in healthy fats and lower in carbohydrates might improve the way you breathe. This is because the metabolic process releases more carbon dioxide when you eat carbs.
The way you eat also plays a role in managing your COPD symptoms.
It may seem counterintuitive to exercise when you have COPD, but under the right conditions, it can help your oxygen levels. It's important to discuss an exercise plan with your physician beforehand to proceed safely. For many, a COPD action and management plan should guide you to safe exercises, even for seniors. Light exercising may improve how the body uses oxygen and may even improve overall breathing to combat shortness of breath.
Some exercises that may work for those with COPD under the supervision of their physician include:
In the early stages, jogging, cycling and jumping rope might still form part of a safe exercise plan.
Your COPD plan should include a drug treatment plan, depending on the level of COPD. When you're in the beginning stages, you might not need to use medication every day, only when a flare occurs. However, as the disease progresses, you'll need to begin your drug treatment plan, and it's important to keep up with the medication to reduce symptoms and prevent flares. You may need to use a medication-tracking app. If you're in an assisted living community and assisted care is provided, medication management might form part of this plan.
One of the most prominent symptoms of COPD is shortness of breath. While oxygen can help, there are some instances where you may not have access to it. Breathing techniques, such as diaphragmatic breathing, can help you expel more air from your lungs. You may also need to learn how to cough differently, as some techniques are more effective in expelling mucus from your lungs.
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