10 Tips for Coping with COPD

by Kathi MacNaughton Health Professional

When you have a chronic condition like COPD, life can be difficult. But, you can adapt and take charge of managing your COPD by paying attention to the following tips.

Learn everything you can

The best strategy for managing a chronic condition like COPD is to understand what it is, how it affects you and what your options are for treatment. Start with your doctor and/or your doctor's health professionals, such as the registered nurses on staff. Ask questions and don't let them put you off because they are busy. You have the right to get answers! Reading books and finding reputable websites can also help.

Think of your doctor as your teammate

Your doctor is a health and disease expert, but you are the expert when it comes to your own body. Listen to your body and keep an ongoing record of changes, plus how you respond to treatment and your symptoms.

Expand your COPD team

Your primary care physician is just one resource you can consult when it comes to managing your health. You might also want to meet periodically with a respiratory specialist, if your regular doctor is a generalist. Nurses and pharmacists can also be a great help.

Coordinate your health care

COPD is probably not the only medical condition with which you are dealing, particularly if you are an older adult. You might be seeing different physicians for different reasons. Make sure they are aware of each other and your treatment plan. Your primary care physician can be a big help in doing this.

Follow a healthy lifestyle

Whether or not you have chronic health issues, you will always benefit from making healthy choices. This may not be easy if you already have COPD, but the benefits are great. If you smoke, stop. Live as active a life as you possibly can. Experts recommend that you get at least 30 minutes of exercise five to six days a week. Make healthy food choices. Drink lots of water and opt for low-fat, low-sugar foods.

Get your family involved!

It will be easier for everyone in your family to invest in a healthy lifestyle if you do it together. And all will benefit. It's also important to involve your family in your care. Tell them what you need and how they can help you. It's important that they understand what it's like to live with COPD every day.

Understand your medications

Medication errors and omissions are among the main reasons chronic illnesses are not always successfully controlled. COPD sufferers can benefit greatly from the proper medication regimen, which may also include supplemental oxygen. Not many people like the idea of taking medication every day or being hooked up to an oxygen tank, but it can be the key to a better quality of life if you have COPD.

Beware of the blues

When you have a chronic health issue, it's easy to get down in the dumps. With time and a little TLC, most people bounce back from those episodes. But real depression is quite common with chronic conditions too. And it can prevent you from taking your medications or doing the things necessary to keep your COPD under control.

Reach out to others

COPD is not an unusual condition and you do not have to go it alone. There may be support groups of other COPD sufferers in your local area or online. Seek them out. Connecting with others who know firsthand what you are going through can be so helpful, for both parties.

Be a proactive health care consumer

You have the right and the responsibility to manage your own health. It's smart to make end-of-life decisions, as COPD is a progressive disease. Talk openly with your loved ones about how aggressive you feel care should be at the end, including whether you'll want hospice or prefer a do-not-resuscitate order.

Kathi  MacNaughton
Meet Our Writer
Kathi MacNaughton

Kathi is an experienced consumer health education writer, with a prior career in nursing that spanned more than 30 years — much of it in the field of home health care. Over the past 15 years, she's been an avid contributor for a number of consumer health websites, specializing in asthma, allergy, and COPD. She writes not only as a healthcare professional, but also as a lifelong sufferer of severe allergies and mild asthma, and as a caregiver for her mother with COPD.