Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) affects nearly 16 million adults in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is the sixth leading cause of death in the country. COPD refers to a number of progressive lung diseases that affect all aspects of your life, potentially leading you to not being able to work or participate in your favorite activities. There are some good habits, therapies, and treatments for COPD that you can turn to.
The Basics of a COPD Diagnosis
COPD is an umbrella term that includes a number of different progressive lung diseases. A COPD diagnosis means you have one or more of these conditions — the two most common being chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Chronic bronchitis irritates the bronchial tubes, leading to their swelling. This causes mucus to build along the lining, making breathing more difficult. People who smoke or who have chronic bronchitis have damaged cilia, which are tiny hairs that usually move mucus out of the way. This means the mucus continues to build up.
Emphysema is the wearing down of the walls of the alveoli, or minuscule air sacs, found at the end of your bronchial tubes. These air sacs help transfer oxygen into your blood and carbon dioxide out, so if they don’t work efficiently, breathing becomes very difficult.
Some of the symptoms of COPD include:
- Shortness of breath performing regular activities
- Cough with mucus that persists
- Struggling to take a deep breath
Smoking is one of the main causes of COPD, but it can also result from being exposed to secondhand smoke, air pollution, and workplace fumes and dust.
Most people who have COPD have a combination of emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Although there’s no cure for COPD, there are many treatments and lifestyle change you can try to get relief from symptoms.
Learning to Manage COPD Symptoms
To manage your COPD, you can turn to a number of strategies.
Medications: Bronchodilators and More
Bronchodilators come as nebulizers or inhalers because this allows the medications to reach your airways faster. Bronchodilators help open constricted airways, and there are two types of them — β-agonists and anticholinergics.
There are also anti-inflammatory medications you can inhale or take in pill form. Expectorants are another type of medication you may need. Expectorants help thin out mucus so that you can cough it up more easily.
Regenerative Medicine: Stem Cell Therapy
One of the most promising options for the treatment of COPD is regenerative medicine. Stem cell therapies allow you to stimulate your body’s natural healing processes, helping reduce inflammation so that the nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood can better reach your lungs and bronchial tubes.
Reducing inflammation can make breathing easier and can even reduce mucus production. Although stem cell therapy won’t cure COPD, it can help with the symptoms and might even help with the regeneration of damaged tissues in your airways.
Lifestyle Changes: Healthy Habits to Turn To
Making lifestyle changes is also important treatments for COPD. Staying active can be one of the most difficult things to do when it’s tough to get enough breath, but exercising helps strengthen muscles while also improving endurance. Exercise helps your body learn to use oxygen more efficiently. Try activities like walking, golfing, and gardening.
If you smoke, it is best to quit. If there are others in your family who smoke, you also need to get them to quit because every time you are exposed to smoke, it irritates your airways and causes more damage.
You also want to maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight puts pressure on your whole body, including your lungs and airways. Losing weight can help improve your breathing, reducing the episodes of shortness of breath.
Make sure to eat correctly as well. Avoid foods that can cause inflammation, including sugar, fried items, processed meats, and more. Reduce your intake of junk food. Instead, add more fruits and vegetables to your diet.
Consider getting vaccinated for the flu and other potential respiratory illnesses. Any infection can make COPD symptoms worse, so taking preventive actions can save you a lot of stress. In the same vein, wash your hands often and limit exposure to people who may be ill.
If you need to use supplemental oxygen, make sure to use it exactly as your doctor recommends. Lots of people don’t want to be seen with their oxygen tanks and cannulas when they are out in public, but not using them can be detrimental to your health.
You need to get enough rest as well. Shortness of breath can exhaust you, weakening your systems and making dealing with everyday life more difficult. When you get a good amount of rest, you allow your body to repair itself.
The air quality in your home is also crucial. Indoor air in homes is often more polluted than outdoor air. Installing a filter can be a great way of improving air quality.
Although it’s impossible to avoid all instances of stress, reducing it as much as possible is important. Stress causes the release of cortisol, which can trigger inflammatory responses in the body. This inflammation makes COPD symptoms worse.
You also need to avoid your COPD triggers. These can be different for everyone, so understanding what causes worsening issues is crucial so that you can make the necessary adjustments to your lifestyle and environment. It can include avoiding certain cleaning products, ensuring that there’s no dust in your living space, and more.
Living With COPD Is Possible
If you have COPD, you may not be sure what treatments options will offer the kind of results you can depend on. For most people, a combination of medications, lifestyle changes, and even regenerative treatments provide the necessary help for the management of symptoms.
Stem cell therapy and other regenerative medicine options can assist in the reduction of inflammation and even help bring better blood flow to the lungs. Ask your healthcare provider if it is the best choice for your COPD.