6 ways to breathe easier
You may not be aware of it since heart disease and cancer get much of the spotlight, but chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third most common cause of death in the United States. There’s no cure, but you can slow progression of the disease. Here are six ways to manage your COPD.
Limit exposure to irritants. Secondhand smoke, dust and chemical fumes can trigger chronic bronchitis symptoms. Do your best to avoid them. When the weather man says air pollution is high, stay inside with your windows closed as much as you can. If you need to have your home painted or sprayed for pests, take a mini vacation for a few days to avoid being exposed to chemicals that can irritate your airways.
Keep the air moist. Talk to your doctor about whether or not a humidifier is right for you. Humidity or steam help break up mucus and reduce wheezing associated with bronchitis, which will make air flow more easily.
Learn pursed-lip breathing. Ask your doctor about pursed-lip breathing. (Here’s how to do it: 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.) This breathing technique 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.
Follow your vaccination schedule. Find out which vaccinations you need, such as a yearly flu shot and the pneumonia vaccine. Folks with chronic bronchitis are at an increased risk of developing serious problems and a rapid worsening of symptoms if they catch the flu. And people with COPD have a higher likelihood of getting pneumonia than those without the disease.
Find support. Having COPD can lead to emotional issues, including stress, anxiety or depression. Talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling emotionally as well as physically. Seek out a support group where you’ll learn how other people with COPD cope with their symptoms.
If you smoke, quit. We’re sure this one goes without saying, but kicking a tobacco habit is the very best thing you can do to control COPD. Quitting smoking can help prevent complications and halt progression of the disease.