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Managing COPD

After being diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it is inevitable that your life will change. There will be physical and emotional challenges as you discover it may not be easy to do things you used to do. The most important thing a person diagnosed with COPD can do is to talk to your doctor and other healthcare professionals about how to make lifestyle changes, better manage your COPD and enhance your quality of life.

Protecting Your Lungs

COPD weakens a person’s lungs, so it is important to know how to reduce exposure to anything that could make COPD worse or cause a "flare up."

Develop a Plan

It is important to talk with your doctor and make a plan that is best for you. With a plan, you will know how and when to take your medicines, when to call your healthcare provider and when to get emergency care. A management plan also helps you track how you are doing, any concerns you may have and any changes in your health that are important to discuss with your doctor.


The food you eat can affect your breathing and the right mix of nutrients in your diet can help you breathe easier.

For example, too much sodium may cause edema (swelling) which may increase your blood pressure. If you have edema or high blood pressure, talk with your doctor about managing your sodium intake. Great alternatives to salt are spices and herbs. Spices and herbs can provide flavorful seasoning and decrease your sodium intake.

Drinking plenty of water is important not only to keep you hydrated, but also helps you clear your throat. Make a goal to drink 6 to 8 glasses (8 fluid ounces each) daily.

Physical Activity

Regular exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle, even if you have COPD. You might feel nervous, but the right amount and type of exercise has many benefits. Be sure to ask your doctor before you start or make changes to your exercise routine.

Moderate exercise can improve:

  • The body's use of oxygen
  • Energy levels
  • Anxiety, stress and depression
  • Sleep
  • Self-esteem
  • Cardiovascular fitness
  • Muscle strength
  • Shortness of breath

Avoid Possible Triggers

The lungs are different from most of the other organs in your body because their delicate tissues are directly connected to the outside environment. Anything you breathe in can affect your lungs. Since the lungs of people who have COPD are already compromised, reducing your exposure to anything that could make your COPD worse, or cause an exacerbation or flare-up is important.

The most important thing you can do to protect your lungs is to not smoke and to avoid second-hand smoke. Additionally, if you are exposed to dust and fumes at work, ask your health and safety advisor about how you are being protected and talk to your doctor about what can be done to minimize or eliminate the exposure.

The Center for Prevention & Lifestyle Management at Griffin Hospital offers education, guidance and assistance in preventing and managing chronic disease, including fitness programs for improved physical activity and free smoking cessation classes that are held virtually.

Some of the information in this article can be attributed to EBSCO Information Services.