A new year is about to dawn and that's the time when people seem driven to reviewing where they went wrong in the past and setting new goals to help them improve in the year to come. Of course, it can be really challenging to stick to those goals and great intentions once the holidays are over and you're back to your old routines and habits!
Still, it's always worth putting some effort into. So, this week, I thought I'd put down some New Years resolutions you might want to think about that could help improve the quality of your life, even though you have COPD.
1. Identify what triggers your COPD symptoms, if you can, and work to eliminate those things from your environment. There are lots of irritants in the air that can set off your symptoms. Cold air is certainly one to think about during the winter. Staying indoors or wearing a scarf over your mouth and nose when outdoors can help you prevent cold air from being a problem. Secondhand smoke or wood fire smoke can also irritate your already overburdened lungs. Overexertion can also set off coughing spells and shortness of breath, so try not to overdo things.
2. Open the lines of communication with your doctor. Managing your health is easier when you and your doctor work together. So be open and honest about how you are feeling, whether you're using your meds and oxygen as prescribed, etc. Your doctor can't help you if you're not frank about what's really going on. And if you have questions or suggestions, voice them! Remember... you are equal partners.
3. Make supplemental oxygen part of your daily COPD management plan. Most people don't like the idea of being tethered to a plastic tube. But supplemental oxygen has been proved to extend the life span of people with COPD, and it also greatly improves quality of life. So, if you're already prescribed oxygen, be sure to use it as prescribed. And if you do not have oxygen at present, then be sure to ask your doctor if you would benefit from it at this stage of your illness, at least part of the time.
4. Quit smoking, if you haven't already. It's surprising how many people who have been diagnosed with COPD go right on smoking. If that sounds like you, then you should be aware that quitting smoking is the #1 thing you can do to improve your respiratory health and to slow the progression of COPD. You won't be able to greatly reverse the lung damage that has already been done, but you can prevent it from getting any worse. Smoking is an addiction, and it's hard to break that habit, but it can be done. Get help from a quit smoking program or from your doctor if needed. Do whatever you have to, to quit once and for all.
5. Stay as active as you possibly can. Staying active becomes more and more challenging as your condition worsens. Still, doing whatever you can to keep your body moving will strengthen your health overall and help you fight the effects of COPD. If you can, keep walking around the block or even indoors at the Mall. If you're mostly confined to your home, then walk around your house a few times a day or even do some chair exercises while you read or watch TV.