Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or also known in the medical field as COPD, is a broad term for emphysema as well as chronic bronchitis and it is the THIRD leading cause of death in America. With over 133,000 lives taken too early in 2009 and an estimated 12.7 million U.S. adults (18+) were estimated to have COPD, and for the tenth year in a row women have exceeded men in deaths attributed to COPD (source: lung.org). Whether you personally suffer from COPD or you are the caregiver for a parent or loved one, COPD can and will affect the family as a whole which is why we will be discussing ways to slow the progression of the disease as well as ways to return the overall quality of life to what it was previous to you or your loved ones prognosis. With the appropriate knowledge, diet, exercise, mixed with a little hard work COPD can be controlled and managed in ways that never crossed your mind!
Proper diet is key!
As we all know our body needs nutrients and to be physically active the human body needs certain nutrients, those nutrients however are not found in fast food, junk food, soda, or candy but in fruits, vegetables, fish, chicken, and meat. These food groups are especially important for patients diagnosed with COPD because a healthy diet can help fight off future infections and giving the body more overall energy. A healthy COPD friendly diet doesn't have to be boring and bland there are tons of delectable meal options, who ever said dieting had to be boring? Patients really need to make sure they have a well balanced diet, a diet filled with low-protein foods like lean cut meats, poultry and fish. Specifically fish with lots of oils like salmon or sardines. Whole grain foods such as whole grain bread, brown rice, oats, or granola, a diet filled with whole grain means a lot of fiber which can help improve the functions of the digestive system. As previously mentioned patients need to be sure to include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, bananas, or asparagus which have a ton of essential vitamins and minerals that will help keep the body healthy. Something patients need to be aware of is sodium, sodium will soak up water in the patients body which can affect their ability to breath, try substituting unsalted herbs you'll be surprised at the added flavor!
- Eat six small meals a day instead of 3 big meals, this reduces overeating which gives the lungs more room to expand making breathing easier
- Eat the main meal early; this will provide a energy boost for the whole day
Exercising is extremely important in more ways than one when trying to combat the symptoms attributed with COPD, exercise as we all know is nothing but beneficial for our hearts and respiratory system but for COPD patients it can also increase their overall mood and outlook about their treatment. Physicians like their patients to get to a level of exercising at least 3-4 times a week for 20-30 minutes at a time, however be sure to speak with your respiratory specialist before starting an exercise program. One of the most important things to be aware of before exercising is always have a warm up which gets the body inclamated to exercising, conditioning is when calories are burned and always be sure to monitor the intensity of the workout to avoid over exertion or breathlessness, and finally a cool down stage which allows the body to recover from the conditioning stage as well as returning the blood and heart rate to a normal level. With a healthy and regular workout routine patients will gain a better self image as well as improving their overall self-esteem.
What to ask about exercising:
- How long can I exercise?
- What exercises should I do/avoid?
- How many times a week should I exercise?
Ask about oxygen therapy
Oxygen therapy is just one of many treatment options for COPD, however no other treatment will allow patients to receive their necessary amount of medical grade oxygen while still doing everything they love! Patients can choose between standard and bulky oxygen tanks that have limited mobility, or liquid oxygen which cools the oxygen and turns it into liquid; great for active patients but it cannot be stored for a long period because it will evaporate. The final method of oxygen therapy is portable oxygen concentrators, what makes these so incredible is that it takes the air we all breath which is 79% nitrogen and 21% oxygen which sends the oxygen through the sieve bed which converts the air into medical grade oxygen delivered at 90%-95% pure oxygen. What makes portable oxygen concentrators so incredible is how easily they are to transport and travel with, many POC'S are under 7 pounds and can be worn around the shoulders or some can be converted into a back-pack (additional accessories) for extreme ease of portability. If you or a loved one with COPD likes to travel frequently then the only way that is made possible is with FAA approved portable oxygen concentrators, tanks or liquid oxygen are not allowed for on-board use during flights. Before ordering a portable oxygen concentrator speak with your respiratory specialist to find out your exact flow requirements, also if you need oxygen 24/7, and finally make sure you have a oxygen prescription or else it is illegal to sell or purchase.
Tips to remember about POC'S:
- Avoid open flames or smoking, medical grade oxygen is extremely flammable
- Keep the machine well ventilated
- Never change the flow setting unless speaking with your doctor
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may be the third leading cause of death in America, but that doesn't mean patients should give up hope and let the disease win. If patients suffering from COPD follow a strict diet plan, exercise regularly (or whats recommended by physician), take medication regularly including oxygen therapy, and most important of all a good attitude, patients can help reduce the symptoms felt as well as the progression of the disease as a whole!+Caleb Umstead