According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) affects around 16 million people in the United States. It is possible that many people who experience COPD symptoms mistake them for a normal sign of aging.
The disease can progress for years without shortness of breath or the person being aware of the condition.
Symptoms of COPD may include:
- a nagging cough
- frequent respiratory infections
- shortness of breath
- less ability to exercise
- chest tightness
Doctors tend to use a spirometric test for diagnosis. It is a simple, noninvasive breathing test to examine lung function.
Though they cannot cure the COPD, lifestyle choices can slow progress and reduce symptoms. This article takes a look at some choices that can help with COPD, along with how best to slow the progress of the disease.
Although there is currently no cure for COPD, there are many ways that a person can reduce their symptoms and slow disease progression. They include:
Quitting smoking cannot reverse COPD, but it can slow the progression.
The main causes and risk factors for COPD include:
- environmental factors
Smoking causes 85–90 percent of COPD cases. The best thing that a person who smokes and has COPD can do is stop smoking cigarettes altogether.
Quitting smoking cannot completely reverse COPD, but it can help slow the progression of the disease and may improve the body's response to treatment.
As well as preventing any further damage to the lungs, quitting smoking can improve the immune system.
Also, those with COPD will benefit from avoiding any environmental factors that may irritate their lungs, including secondhand smoke, air pollution, and dust.
A person with COPD should also try to manage any allergies that may contribute to their breathing difficulties.
Exercise cannot cure or reverse COPD, but it may improve some of the symptoms.
One of the symptoms of COPD is shortness of breath. This symptom can make exercise and everyday physical tasks difficult. A lack of exercise may also weaken the muscles and make a person's heart and lungs even less tolerant to physical activity. As a result, exercise is important to keep the muscles strong.
Pulmonary rehabilitation programs can be useful in improving a person's ability to tolerate exercise. People who have COPD should start slow and gradually increase their exercise with the guidance of a doctor.
It is important that a person's exercise routine includes:
Exercise can improve the symptoms of COPD.
- a warmup and stretching
- cardiovascular exercises, such as walking or using a stationary bike
- strength training, such as using hand weights
According to the CDC, the benefits of exercise include:
- a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
- a reduced risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome
- a reduced risk of cancer
- better weight control
- stronger muscles and bones
- improved mental health and mood
Getting regular exercise and following a healthful diet can also boost the immune system and improve COPD symptoms, as well as general health.
In particular, a person should limit their intake of simple carbohydrates, instead opting for complex carbohydrates, and consume 20–30 grams of fiber per day.
Is it possible to prevent or slow progression?
COPD is a chronic and progressive disease. While it is possible to slow progress and reduce symptoms, it is impossible to cure the disease, and it will gradually worsen over time. Early diagnosis is key to finding the right treatment and slowing the disease before it starts to progress.
Making lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and avoiding environmental pollutants can help slow progress and reduce symptoms.
COPD is a chronic and progressive disease that can make it difficult for people to breathe. The condition currently has no cure, but people can take steps to reduce its impact.
If symptoms get worse, it is important to talk to a doctor to evaluate the current treatment plan and make adjustments accordingly.