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These Are Things You Can and Can't Do with COPD

  • Category: LiveSmart
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  • Written By: Baldwin

Here are tips for living healthier with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

If you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), everyday activities can be a challenge because the condition affects your ability to breathe properly. But by taking steps to take care of your health and manage your condition effectively, there's no need to let COPD get in the way of living your best life.

Here are some do's and don'ts to keep in mind if you have COPD:

  • Don't smoke. One of the best ways to protect your lungs and to stop your COPD from getting worse is to quit smoking if you still smoke.
  • Do exercise regularly. You may think you can't exercise if you have COPD, but exercise is another great thing you can do for your lungs. Low- to moderate-intensity exercise helps strengthen lungs and can boost the amount of oxygen in your body. Of course, always check with your doctor before starting any new activity to make sure it's safe for you to do.
  • Do follow a healthy diet. COPD can drain your energy, so to keep energy levels high, it's best to eat a number of small meals throughout the day instead of a few big ones. Follow a well-balanced diet that prioritizes fiber- and vitamin-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats. Don't eat too much salt, because it can cause you to retain fluids, which can increase the amount of mucus in your lungs. Dairy, fried foods, alcohol and caffeine may also exacerbate symptoms. Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Don't skip sex. Another thing you may think you can't do if you have COPD is have sex, but most people with the condition can still enjoy this activity. You may benefit from using an inhaler a few minutes before you start or can use oxygen during sex if needed. Just listen to your body, relax and have fun.
  • Do practice breathing exercises. By routinely doing breathing exercises, you can help increase the amount of oxygen that flows through your lungs. These exercises are also good at reducing stress and anxiety, which is something people with COPD may feel when their breathing is difficult.
  • Do take precautions to avoid illness. When you have COPD, there's more chance of developing complications from illnesses like a cold, the flu or COVID-19. So take steps to protect yourself, such as getting recommended vaccines (including flu, pneumonia and COVID-19), washing hands often, wearing a mask when around groups of people and avoiding anyone who is sick.
  • Do prevent allergy flare ups. Many people with COPD also have allergies. If you are one of them, avoid allergy triggers like pollen, dust and pet dander. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to effectively treat your allergies so they don't exacerbate COPD symptoms.
  • Don't spend time around lung irritants. Since people with COPD have more sensitive lungs, being around any type of irritant can make the condition worse. Avoid things like secondhand smoke, air pollution, dust and fumes from chemicals, paint or cleaning products, as well as mold and mildew.

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Date Last Reviewed: September 13, 2022

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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