Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may not garner as much attention as heart disease and cancer, but it's the third most common cause of death in the U.S. Although there's no cure, there are many things you can do to slow the progression—including learning more about it. Here are eight things you should know about COPD that can help you breathe a little easier.
COPD: Who Knew? https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/crop/582x389%2B2%2B0/resize/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F36%2F7a%2F5aa4b6924febb59244ed08ed137b%2Fbronchitis-SS-couple.jpg
Kicking a tobacco habit is the very best thing you can do to control COPD. And it's never too late. Quitting smoking can help prevent complications and put the brakes on the progression of the disease. Not sure where to start? Visit smokefree.gov for a comprehensive guide to ditching cigarettes. You'll also find resources to support you through the process. The more support you get, the more successful you'll be.
1. The Best Thing You Can Do: Quit Smoking https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/thumbnail/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F59%2F54%2Fa316cdfb4a03a0875e8781b5cac1%2Fpain_smoking.jpg
Irritants outside your body such as secondhand smoke, chemical fumes, and dust can set off chronic bronchitis symptoms. Do your best to avoid them. On days when air pollution is high, try to stay inside with your windows closed. If you need to have your home painted or sprayed for pests, plan to stay away for several days to avoid being exposed to chemicals that can irritate your airways.
While COPD is a medical problem, it can also lead to emotional issues. Many people with COPD experience stress, anxiety, or depression. Let your doctor know how you're feeling emotionally as well as physically. He or she can direct you to a support group where you'll learn how other people with COPD cope with their symptoms. This can make you feel like you're not alone. Spending time with friends and family can also help you feel better.
3. Seek Out Support https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/thumbnail/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F90%2Fe1%2F8a20f2cb450d8753478769576329%2Fbronchitis-SS_support%20group.jpg
Many people with COPD, particularly chronic bronchitis, breathe fast. Ask your doctor about a breathing method called pursed-lip breathing. Why it works: Pursed-lip breathing slows your breaths so your airway stays open longer. This means more air can flow in and out, which will allow you to be more active throughout the day. Click forward to learn how.
Inhale through your nostrils. As you exhale, slightly purse your lips as if you were going to blow out a candle. Try making your exhale two to three times longer than your inhale. For instance, if you inhale for two seconds, try exhaling for four to six seconds.
5. How to Do Pursed-Lip Breathing https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/crop/1500x1003%2B0%2B0/resize/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F0d%2Fea%2Fe0dbb2aa4075a431b43a16741728%2Fresizes%2F1500%2Fimage-gettyimages-74076097.jpg
Talk with your doctor about any vaccinations you need, such as a yearly flu shot. As if getting the flu wasn't bad enough, people with chronic bronchitis are likely to develop serious problems and a rapid worsening of symptoms if they catch the flu. In addition, people with COPD have a higher risk of getting pneumonia than those without the disease. Ask your doctor whether the pneumonia vaccine is right for you.
6. Roll Up Your Sleeve for Vaccines https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/thumbnail/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F5f%2Fb3%2F174d1d0444ca8f55fa8173a43407%2Fimage-women-patient-getting-injection.jpg
Ask someone to help you rearrange your home so daily activities are easier and less frustrating. For instance, move objects in your kitchen that you use most often somewhere that's easy to reach. You may find that a small cart with wheels is helpful for moving objects around, and a pole with clamps at the end can make it easier to grab things.
7. Make Your Life a Little Easier https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/thumbnail/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F61%2F84%2F1890f087471482a44a35370b4ceb%2Fbronchitis-SS-kitchen.jpg
Ask your doctor whether using a humidifier in your home may help. Humidity or steam can help break up mucus and reduce wheezing associated with bronchitis, which will make air flow more easily through your airway.