Tips For Reducing The Risk Of COPD And Improving Quality Of Life

One of the leading causes of death in the United States is a condition that many people are not even aware they have. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, also known as COPD, affects more than 16 million people in the U.S. COPD is a slow growing condition. Moderate and severe cases have obvious symptoms, but many people with milder forms of COPD are not even aware that they have developed this disease until it starts to create problems. The good news is that with proper care and management, it is possible to slow the progression of COPD and also reduce the risk of developing this condition.

Understanding COPD

COPD is a chronic disease that causes regular inflammation of the lungs, resulting in restricted airflow which makes it difficult to breathe. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are the two most common conditions that contribute to COPD. People who have COPD often live with daily coughing or wheezing and tend to cough up excess mucus. People with this condition are at a higher risk for developing other dangerous health conditions such as lung cancer and heart disease, as well as respiratory infections such as pneumonia.

Symptoms of COPD

The most common symptoms of COPD are difficulty breathing (especially when participating in a physical activity), coughing and wheezing. Here are some additional symptoms:

  • Chest tightness
  • A chronic cough that never completely goes away
  • Mucous that ranges in color from clear to white, yellow or green
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Frequent or chronic respiratory infections
  • Swelling in legs, ankles, or feet
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Bluish fingernails, toenails or lips

Preventing COPD

There are several strategies that can minimize one’s risk of contracting COPD:

  • Quit smoking. Smoking is the leading cause of COPD. In addition to cigarette smokers, pipe, cigar and marijuana smokers may also be at risk. Long-time smokers may find it helpful to work with a doctor to create a plan of action to help them quit.
  • Avoid lung irritants. COPD can also be caused by particulate matter in the air. This can be caused by being environmentally exposed to chemicals and pollutants. It’s important to heed air quality warnings and avoid fumes, dust, secondhand smoke and environmental smoke such as charcoal, burning wood and more.
  • Eat a nutritious diet and get plenty of exercise. Following a healthy lifestyle will improve overall wellbeing and can also help boost immunity.

Improving Quality of Life with COPD

While there is no cure for COPD, there are several lifestyle changes that can help slow the progression of the disease and alleviate some of the symptoms. For many people with COPD, quality of life can be vastly improved with the guidelines for prevention outlined above as well as the following:

  • Avoid contact with people who are sick or showing any symptoms of illness. Those with COPD are more likely to catch upper respiratory infections from others.
  • Get annual vaccinations. It’s important that people with COPD get an annual flu and pneumococcal pneumonia vaccination.
  • Work with a medical professional. A doctor can prescribe inhaled steroids and other medications that can help manage your symptoms.

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