Quitting smoking is the first and most essential step in treating COPD and slowing its progress. In many people who quit early, lung function stabilizes and eventually declines to about the rate of nonsmokers in the same age group. In some people, lung function may even improve slightly after quitting. As COPD progresses, quitting can slow the rate of decline; however, lost lung function is never fully recovered.
Most patients who smoke try to quit an average of seven times before they are successful. Using a combination of smoking cessation aids improves the likelihood of quitting. These include nicotine replacement products (patches, gum, nasal spray, lozenges), counseling, and prescription medications such as bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix).
COPD(Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder)
Preventing Upper Respiratory Infections
Good Hygiene. Hands should be washed with ordinary soap before eating and after going outside the home. Antibacterial soaps add little protection, particularly against viruses. One study suggests that common liquid dish washing soaps are up to 100 times more effective than antibacterial soaps in killing respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is known to cause pneumonia.
Vaccines. Two important vaccinations are recommended to protect against respiratory infection.
Influenza vaccination. People with COPD should be vaccinated against influenza each year at least 6 weeks before flu season begins. Severely ill patients may experience mild initial adverse side effects. In general, however, the vaccination is very safe and appears to help reduce exacerbations of COPD during flu season.
Pneumococcal vaccine. The pneumococcal vaccine protects against 23 types of pneumococcus, the major bacterium that causes pneumonia. The vaccine remains effective for years. Flu and pneumococcal vaccines can be administered at the same time without increasing any adverse effects.
Pursed-Lip Breathing. A technique called pursed-lip breathing can help improve lung function before starting activities or doing a strenuous task, such as lifting a heavy box. Pursed-lip breathing helps change pressure in the airways and prevents small airways from collapsing.
First, inhale through the nose, moving the abdominal muscles outward so that the diaphragm lowers and the lungs fill with air.
Exhale through the mouth with the lips pursed, making a hissing sound.
Exhalation should take twice as long as inhalation, so that pressure is experienced in the windpipe and chest, and trapped air is forced out.
Holding Breath and Coughing. A simple technique is to inhale deeply and slowly, hold the breath for 5 -10 seconds, then cough on exhalation.
Fluids and Humidity. Patients with congestion and heavy sputum can benefit from maintaining good fluid intake and keeping their homes humidified.
Chest Therapy. Chest therapy involves rhythmic inhalation for three to four deep breaths followed by coughing to produce sputum. Tapping the chest may also help in loosening and raising sputum in patients with a significant amount of sputum production. Avoid chest therapy during an acute exacerbation of COPD.
When coughing to produce mucus, another method is to lean forward and “huff” repeatedly, take relaxed breaths, and huff again. Avoid forceful coughing, if possible.
Gasping for Air: Life With C.O.P.D.
Because COPD is not simply a lung condition, but a systemic disease that causes wasting of the muscles and bones, certain physical exercises may be very helpful.
Strengthening Exercises for the Limbs. Exercising and strengthening the muscles in the arms and legs helps some patients improve their endurance and reduce breathlessness. Exercising only one leg at a time (for example, pedaling a stationary bicycle with one leg instead of two) might benefit patients who are usually too out-of-breath to exercise, and help them increase their exercise capacity.
Walking. Walking is the best exercise for patients with emphysema. In studies of lung rehabilitation, regular exercise increased walking distance and improved breathing. Patients should try to walk 3 – 4 times daily for 5 – 15 minutes each time. Devices that assist ventilation may reduce breathlessness that occurs during exercise.
Yoga and Meditation
Yoga and Eastern Practices.
Yoga and tai chi, two practices that use deep breathing and meditation techniques, may be particularly beneficial for COPD patients. Research is underway to determine whether yoga is helpful for COPD patients.
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