By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , /

My name is Gail Weinmann and I am deputy director of the Division of Lung Diseases at NHLBI. People can live a long time with COPD, many
decades actually, so it’s important to understand that there are options to allow those with
COPD to live their lives fully. Even though there’s no cure for COPD, these
options may slow its progression and manage symptoms. You and your health care provider are in the
best position to decide what you need and what is the best course of action for you
in particular. Some of the options that are available include
medication, physical training or rehabilitation, and of course, general healthy living. Let’s start with healthy living. If you still smoke, the most important step
you can take towards healthy living is to quit. Studies have shown that it’s never too late
to quit. This is a good step for you and anyone you
know, whether they have COPD or not. It’s not easy to quit and there is no magic
bullet. But there are many programs available at the
national and local levels to help. Usually, a multi-faceted approach works best. Nicotine replacement therapy or a support
group or both may be helpful. If you have COPD, it’s best to avoid lung
irritants, like second-hand smoke, dusty environments, and fumes. It’s probably a good idea to stay indoors
on bad pollution days. A healthy, balanced diet helps everyone. Eating the wrong food or too much food or
not enough food can all potentially worsen symptoms. Another important step towards healthy living
is adequate exercise and strength training. While it can be very hard to remain active,
physical activity provides overall conditioning of your heart and muscles and improves your
overall endurance. Many report it helps them sleep at night. Another part of healthy living is staying
up to date with your vaccinations. You should check with your health care provider
what vaccinations are appropriate for you. If you have symptoms of being short of breath,
there are some medications that may help. The most commonly used one is lung bronchodilators. These are medications that relax the muscles
in your airways and help the air to move in and out of your lungs. Some patients with COPD may respond well to
corticosteroids. These are drugs which work to decrease the
inflammation in the airways. For those with very low levels of blood oxygen,
a health care provider may prescribe oxygen therapy. A very select group of patients with a certain
pattern of COPD may benefit from surgery of the lung. Beyond regular exercise, a coordinated pulmonary
rehabilitation program may help. Pulmonary rehabilitation is a prescribed regime
that includes an exercise program, disease management, and nutritional and psychological
counseling. A team of health care professionals that may
include doctors, nurses, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, exercise specialists,
and dietitians, work together to create a program that meets your needs. Sometimes a cold, flu, or a lung infection
may cause your symptoms to worsen suddenly and you may have a much harder time breathing,
feel chest tightness, have more coughing, there could be changes in the color or amount
of your sputum or spit, you could even have a fever. If this happens to you, it’s important to
contact a health care provider right away. (SFX MUSIC)
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