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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Minimize symptoms of COPD

Anthony L. Komaroff M.D.

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have COPD. My doctor is great about prescribing medication, but he doesn’t give me much other advice. So I’ll ask you: What can I do to improve my quality of life?

DEAR READER: There’s a lot you can do.

First, some basics. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a group of disorders that damage the lungs and make breathing increasingly difficult. Common symptoms include a mucus-producing cough, breathlessness, rapid breathing, wheezing, tightness in the chest and fatigue.

You can do a lot to minimize the symptoms from COPD:

PULMONARY REHABILITATION. Pulmonary rehab combines exercise therapy, breathing retraining, education and psychological support to help you to carry out day-to-day activities with greater ease and independence.

EXERCISE REGULARLY. Regular exercise helps maintain strength and prevents you from becoming easily tired during physical activities. Aerobic exercise, like walking, is most beneficial. Aim for at least 20 minutes on most days.

EAT AND DRINK REGULARLY. Small meals are easier to digest and use less energy than large meals. Try having smaller meals throughout the day instead of three large meals. And drink plenty of water, which will help you to cough up mucus more easily.

AVOID LUNG IRRITANTS. Many things, from dry air to pollen, can irritate your lungs. Here are some tips for avoiding irritants:

– Use a humidifier when the air is very dry. Dry air can irritate the airways.

– Ventilate your home to reduce dust and cooking exhaust in the air. Unless you are allergic to outdoor allergens, keep windows open when the weather is warm enough.

– Have furnaces and chimneys inspected and cleaned regularly.

– Avoid aerosol products.

– If you have allergies, avoid whatever triggers them: pollen, pet dander, dust, mold, etc.

All of the things I’ve suggested you do to protect yourself against the consequences of COPD take time, and some take money. Believe me: They’re worth it.

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