Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is just that: chronic. There is no known cure for many respiratory diseases, from asthma to emphysema, but there are medications, whether oral or in aerosolized form, that your doctor may prescribe to slow down the progression of your disease and its symptoms. The good news is that there are five non-medical treatments you can do on your own to keep your respiratory symptoms at bay and continue to enjoy quality of life with a chronic ailment.
5 Ways to Slow the Progression of Your Respiratory Disease
- Quit Smoking: The first thing you need to do, if you haven't already, is quit smoking. Believe it or not, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), your heart rate will return to normal levels after your last cigarette. After two hours, your blood pressure will decrease, but about this same time the withdrawal symptoms from nicotine will emerge. The most surprising fact, though, is that if you tough it out for 12 hours, the carbon monoxide in your lungs decreases, and your blood oxygen level will be at baseline.
- Consider Pulmonary Rehabilitation: Pulmonary rehabilitation may be the ticket to keep you on the road to wellness. Your pulmonologist or discharge planner, if you were hospitalized, may sign you up for this program, which includes group exercise and education, all under the supervision of a physician. Working with other patients with the same questions and concerns can give you the support and motivation to stay on track with your health maintenance program.
- Exercise/Stay Active: Typically, when you hear the words "aerobic exercise," you may picture Olympic competitors, not those with respiratory disease, but athletes know that aerobic activity can increase lung capacity and function, which is critical to slow your disease progression. Remember always to tell your doctor before beginning any exercise program and start off slowly. Check out your local community or senior center for classes, such as yoga, tai chi or barre. Yoga is an especially good workout for respiratory disease because its primary focus is on breathing techniques while tai chi and barre classes involve balance and stretching routines. Find an activity that you enjoy and will continue, optimally for 20-30 minutes, three to four times a week.
- Used Incentive Spirometer: You may have been given an incentive spirometer by your pulmonologist. This device is generally prescribed after an acute respiratory event, such as pneumonia; its purpose is to clear out your lungs, produce an active cough and exercise the lungs in place of activities of daily living (ADLs). The mechanism is simple: you draw air into your lungs through the device's outlet, which causes a ball to float to a colored level indicator on the side. You can mark any lung improvement or establish a baseline to track your respiratory condition.
- Have a Healthy Diet: It's never too late to eat healthy, and you may find with exercise and group motivation that your eating habits will change as well. Some tasty meal options:
- Breakfast: Greek yogurt with a handful of blueberries packs both a protein and antioxidant punch.
- Lunch: Soups are easy to prepare, especially in a crock pot.
- Dinner: Tuna or chicken salad, with a lite mayo and plenty of crunchy lettuce, can be a satisfying alternative to a heavy supper.
- If irregularity is a problem, use a fiber supplement that mixes easily with water, and be careful with your consumption of alcohol, which is full of empty calories.