Making a few simple lifestyle changes could have a big impact on your loved one’s ability to slow the progression of their COPD. This can be easier said than done, so your continued support and motivation can be a big help in getting your loved one on the right track for managing their condition.
Quitting smoking is the most important thing that can be done to slow the progression of COPD. By stopping their exposure to the irritants in tobacco smoke, your loved one can help prevent doing more harm to their airways than they’ve already experienced.
Quitting smoking can be difficult, but there are many resources available to help. Visit smokefree.gov for a comprehensive guide to quitting, from managing cravings and slips to strategies for staying smoke free. There's even a section dedicated to helping someone else quit smoking.
In addition to support for quitting, there are several different types of nicotine replacement therapy available, such as nicotine patches and nicotine gum. You may also want to speak with the doctor about prescription medications that may help your loved one quit smoking.
It's important for anyone with COPD, whether they smoke or not, to stay away from any irritants that could damage their lungs or cause their symptoms to act up. These include secondhand smoke, dust, indoor and outdoor air pollutants, and chemical fumes.
Make sure your loved one is eating a balanced diet and getting the nutrients they need. Work with your loved one’s doctor to develop a nutrition plan that will help them stay in the best shape possible. This is especially important as COPD progresses, when fatigue and shortness of breath may cause your loved one to lose their appetite.
While it may become harder for your loved one to do some physical activity with COPD, being active can help to strengthen their muscles and may even help strengthen the muscles they use to breathe. Talk to the doctor about what level of activity is safe for your loved one. And remember, the key to staying active long-term is to start being active now.
There are some exercises your loved one can do to help strengthen their lungs and the muscles they use to breathe. These techniques may also help get more air into their lungs if your loved one feels short of breath. Visit the COPD Foundation to explore three helpful breathing techniques.
Respiratory infections like the flu may cause symptoms to worsen for those living with COPD, so make sure your loved one gets a flu shot every year. Also, make sure you both wash your hands regularly during cold and flu season, and try to get all of the vitamins and minerals you need to stay as healthy as possible.
People with COPD are also at a greater risk for getting pneumonia. You may want to ask the doctor about the pneumococcal vaccine, which can help lower your loved one’s risk of getting pneumococcal pneumonia.
Extreme heat and cold may trigger your loved one’s COPD symptoms and make it difficult for them to breathe. Your loved one may find it helpful to cover their mouth and nose in the winter, and to avoid going out in the middle of the day when it’s hottest in the summer.
Patients with COPD may find that their symptoms leave them feeling tired, making it possible to become isolated as leaving the house becomes more difficult. For this reason, it’s important that your loved one continue to socialize regularly. You can also help create new opportunities to be social. For instance, help the person you’re caring for find a local club for something they’re interested in or join a COPD support group in your area.
There are plenty of simple things your loved one can do to make life with COPD a little easier.