Newly Diagnosed with COPD

Changing How You Live

After you have been diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), chances are, there will be changes in your everyday life. These changes may be small, or they may have a big impact.

Living with COPD can be challenging. Once you know you have COPD and begin treatment, there are many things you should consider doing. These tips will not only help improve your breathing but may slow down your disease. They may also improve your life.

  • Talk with your doctor. Learn about how you can breathe better, help slow the progression of your COPD, lower the chances of getting sick with breathing problems, and improve your ability to take part in your usual—or new—activities.
  • Stop Smoking! If you know you have COPD and are still smoking, quitting is the most important thing you can do to keep your COPD from getting much worse. After you quit, your symptoms of cough, breathlessness and wheezing will probably improve. Here are some resources to help you quit smoking.
  • Avoid cigarette smoke and other irritants in the air. These may include dust, insect repellent, paint fumes and smoke. Make the air in your house as clean as possible by cleaning often and changing air filters frequently. Breathing in dust and other pollutants can further irritate your damaged lungs. Stay indoors or wear a mask on days when the air quality is rated as poor. (Your local news will give the air quality rating during the weather report.)
  • Wash your hands often. Simple hygienic activities can help you stay healthy. Stay away from people who have a cold or flu.
  • Find out from your doctor if there is a pulmonary rehabilitation program near you. If there isn’t a pulmonary rehab program near you, you still need to begin an exercise program. An exercise program will make your lung muscles stronger, improve your tiredness and make your whole body healthier and stronger. Many people mistakenly believe that if they are short of breath, they should not exercise. This is not true. Exercise actually helps improve your breathing while also helping you to feel better. Your exercise program can be as simple as walking daily. You can start off slow by just walking around inside your house and then try walking some outdoors (when the air is clear). Try walking a little more each day
  • Take your medicines daily. Follow the schedule your doctor has given you and make sure you do not run out of them. Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about how to use your medicines if you’re not sure. Remember to continue taking your medicines, even if you feel better.
  • Learn breathing exercises. Your doctor or respiratory therapist can help you learn how to breathe more efficiently. (For example: by using pursed lip breathing.) They can also help you learn positions and relaxation steps that will help you when you are feeling short of breath.
  • Learn how to clear your lungs with coughing. Coughing helps to clean your lungs. Your doctor or respiratory therapist can teach you ways to cough that will clear your lungs of mucus with two or three coughs. Coughing to clean will help you in the mornings when there may be mucus that has settled in your lungs while you were sleeping.
  • Drink lots of water and fluids throughout the day. This can help to thin out the mucus in your lungs allowing you to cough it up more easily.
  • Eat healthy foods and maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, losing weight will help your breathing. If you are underweight, gaining weight will improve your strength and help your body recover from flare-ups quicker.
  • Get the flu shot each year. And talk with your doctor about a pneumonia shot. Because your lungs are damaged permanently, you must take steps to prevent any lung infections which could cause your COPD to become much worse.
  • Following a flare-up, make sure you throw away any toothbrushes you used during the infection. Also wash all the spacers, nebulizer tubing, masks or mouthpieces you used in hot soapy water. Rinse well and dry thoroughly.
  • Make life as simple as possible but keep doing all that you can do. Consider getting products that may help make your daily living easier, such as a shower stool. If basic tasks take less energy, you’ll be able to do more things you enjoy.
  • Schedule and keep appointments with your doctor. You should probably see your doctor at least twice a year, even if you are feeling well. Between appointments, keep notes about how you feel during different activities. Make notes about side effects you think your medicines are causing and any other concerns you have about your disease. Take these notes with you to your appointment. Share them with your doctor.
  • Keep important numbers handy. Make sure you always have a list of important phone numbers, including your doctor’s, pulmonologist’s, and friends’ or family members’. Also keep a list of the medicines you’re taking and any allergies you have.
  • Learn all you can about your disease!

Resources and Support

The COPD Foundation offers resources such as COPD360social, an online community where you can connect with patients, caregivers and healthcare providers and ask questions, share your experiences and receive and provide support. We also offer free, downloadable educational materials available through our downloads library.

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