6 Tips for Managing Stable COPD


With about 30 million Americans suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), many across the nation may be wondering what is the best treatment for COPD. While different treatment techniques may be better suited for different patients, there are general lifestyle changes that can help anyone with COPD breathe a little easier.

To help answer the question of how to manage COPD, this article will discuss what COPD is, what some common COPD symptoms are and how those symptoms can be managed in practical ways. Keep reading to learn more about controlling your stable COPD.

What Is COPD?

COPD is a group of progressive lung diseases that affects the ability to breathe. The most common lung diseases associated with COPD are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Emphysema negatively impacts outward airflow by gradually destroying the lung's air sacs, while bronchitis causes inflammation and narrowing of the bronchial tubes, which results in mucus buildup.

The main cause of COPD is tobacco smoking. Because COPD can take a long time to develop, being continually exposed to chemical irritants over many years can also lead to COPD. COPD can be definitively diagnosed through tests on imaging, blood and lung function.

Although there is no cure for COPD, certain treatments can help reduce symptoms, improve the patient's quality of life and lower the chance of complications. Because it is a progressive disease, COPD is best treated as early as possible. When left untreated, COPD can quickly worsen and cause heart problems or respiratory infections.

Fortunately, various treatment measures are available to assist in managing COPD. The most common forms of COPD treatment include medications, supplemental oxygen therapy and sometimes surgery. In addition, there are plenty of practical lifestyle modifications COPD patients can make to minimize their symptoms, which we will discuss further in a later section.

Common COPD Symptoms

Overall, COPD makes it more difficult to breathe. At first, COPD symptoms may be quite mild, such as occasional coughing and shortness of breath, but as the disease progresses, these side effects may become nearly constant and inhibit the patient's ability to breathe normally. The early, mild symptoms of COPD may be often overlooked as a cold, but it is important to be aware of the signs.

Here are the early indications of COPD:

  • Mild but recurring cough
  • Shortness of breath, especially after exercising
  • Frequent need to clear the throat, especially in the morning

These symptoms might be subtle and easy to evade by avoiding stairs or physical activity, but later COPD symptoms will not be so easy to ignore. As COPD progresses, side effects may start to include:

  • Lack of energy
  • Chest tightness
  • Chronic cough, with or without mucus
  • Daily need to clear mucus from the lungs
  • Wheezing, especially when exhaling
  • Frequent colds, flu or types of respiratory infection

Once COPD worsens even further, these symptoms may begin to appear:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Swollen feet, ankles or legs

Be sure to seek immediate medical attention if any of the following symptoms are experienced:

  • Bluish or gray lips or fingernails, which is a sign of low oxygen levels in the blood
  • Feeling faint, muddled or confused
  • Difficulty talking or catching a breath
  • Racing heart

6 Tips for Managing Stable COPD

For those with stable COPD, you have ways to keep symptoms to a minimum and maintain a regular lifestyle. While these strategies will not cure COPD, they will reduce some symptoms and make the condition more manageable. To help alleviate some side effects of your stable COPD, try these six tips:

1. Avoid or Quit Smoking

Because smoking is so detrimental to the lungs, it can severely exacerbate COPD symptoms. It is recommended that smokers who are diagnosed with COPD should quit immediately. COPD patients who do not smoke should do their best to avoid secondhand smoke and chemical fumes whenever possible.

2. Maintain a Healthy Diet

Giving your body the nutrition it needs is key for fighting off any disease. To give your body the right fuel for managing COPD symptoms, you need to follow a healthy diet that cuts out processed foods, which lack any real nutrients. Get on the right track by speaking with a doctor or dietitian about creating a healthy eating plan specifically designed for COPD patients and immune support.

3. Create an Exercise Plan

Although shortness of breath may make avoiding exercise tempting, it is important for COPD patients to exercise regularly, as doing so can help lessen symptoms of fatigue. Research has also found that exercise therapy may help reduce the effects of dyspnea, which is the breathing discomfort caused by shortness of breath that many COPD patients experience.

Coming up with an exercise plan for someone with COPD involves incorporating the right amount of physical activity without irritating symptoms, which can be a difficult balance to achieve. If you have stable COPD, talk with a doctor about what the right exercise plan for you would look like.

4. Reduce Stress

Stress can have a range of negative effects on overall health, including making COPD symptoms worse. Consider getting some stress relief by talking with others who understand what you are going through. Joining a support group for COPD patients can be a great way to get advice for living with COPD while taking care of your mental health.

5. Conserve Energy

Because those with COPD have weakened lungs, you will want to avoid doing anything that could overtax your lungs or cause a flare-up. You can conserve your energy during your regular routine by streamlining your house and getting rid of excess clutter so completing basic tasks takes less energy. If your COPD is advanced, you may want to ask for help with cleaning and other daily chores.

6. Talk to Your Doctor About Medication and Oxygen Options

Pharmacotherapy for COPD is a reliable option for decreasing symptoms and complications due to the disease. Properly taking prescribed COPD medication can help reduce shortness of breath, limit chest infections and decrease hospital stays. Common COPD treatment medications include inhaled bronchodilators, corticosteroids and theophylline.

Oxygen therapy is another popular approach for managing COPD symptoms. Oxygen therapy can help COPD patients breathe easier by delivering supplemental oxygen through a mask or nasal cannula. Using a portable unit can make both breathing and getting around every day easier.

Contact Post Acute Medical for Assistance With Managing COPD

For more information about how you can manage your stable COPD, contact Post Acute Medical. At Post Acute Medical, we offer a wide range of cardiopulmonary therapy services, from proper breathing techniques to appropriate exercise programs. Our dedicated staff prioritizes quality care, patient satisfaction and long-term positive outcomes so you can be confident you are getting the best COPD care possible.

Locate the Post Acute Medical facility nearest you to start getting your COPD symptoms under control today.