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10 Things To Stop Doing If You Have COPD

Ways to Make Living With COPD More Manageable

By

Updated April 18, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Living with COPD is often difficult, especially if you feel that your COPD symptoms are worsening and you can't understand why. If your dyspnea is increasing, your cough becoming more frequent, and your doctor has told you that you are not having a COPD exacerbation, then making certain lifestyle changes may help you to feel better. The following list includes 10 things you should stop doing if you have COPD:

1. Smoking

quitting smoking treatment for COPD
Photo courtesy of istockphoto.com, user Stepan Popov

Quitting smoking is the single most important thing you can do if you have COPD. Not only does continuing to smoke make COPD progress at a much more rapid rate, but it can lead to other smoking-related illnesses, such as hypertension, heart disease, stroke or cancer. If you want to quit, cold turkey is just way to do it, but optional methods are available and often more effective.

2. Being a Couch Potato

Couch Potato
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Are you a couch potato? Would you rather sit and watch television than exercise? If you're spending most of your time immobilized, then it's time to get up and start moving! Exercise has many benefits, including helping you sleep better, increasing your self-esteem and improving your overall quality of life. Many people with COPD have also shared that, with daily exercise and other lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, they are able to see an improvement in (or at least maintain) their current level of lung function.

3. Eating Junk Food

Eating Junk Food
Photo courtesy of Getty Images, user John Rensten

Eating junk food or a diet consisting mainly of processed foods can have a significant impact on COPD. So can not eating enough. Junk food contains loads of calories and fat. For example, a Big Mac from McDonald's contains 540 calories and 29 grams of fat. Yikes! Eating too much junk food (or any type of food, for that matter) generally can lead to weight gain and/or obesity, which can make breathing more difficult than it already is.

In contrast, eating too little may lead to malnutrition and cachexia, which may contribute to a premature death. Maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet is recommended for everyone, but is especially important for those with chronic illnesses.

4. Increasing Your Risk For COPD Exacerbation

COPD Exacerbation
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Although the two top causes of COPD exacerbation are lung infections and air pollution, many times, the cause is unknown. Improper handwashing technique and not receiving the vaccinations recommended for COPD are just two factors that increase your risk for exacerbation, which, far too often, leads to hospitalization and death. That's why it's so important to prevent or at least recognize when an exacerbation is coming on.

5. Being Non-Compliant With Your Treatment

Non-Compliance With Treatment
Photo courtesy of Getty Images, user Staff

Whether it's because you can't afford your medications or you're simply in denial that you have a disease, being non-compliant, or not adhering to your recommended COPD treatment plan, can have a direct impact on how you feel and your overall quality of life. COPD may be incurable, but it is treatable. Are you unable (or unwilling) to follow your recommended treatment plan? The following tips may help:

6. Being Embarrassed To Use Oxygen In Public

Embarrassed By Oxygen
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Many people with COPD, who would otherwise benefit from long-term oxygen therapy, won't do so because they are embarrassed to be seen in public with an oxygen tank and nasal cannula. This can lead to social isolation and depression, which does not contribute to your overall well-being. Oxygen therapy has many benefits, including improving sleep, mood, and mental alertness. Some studies have even shown that for some COPD patients, using oxygen for at least 15 hours per day increases survival. Finally, many people are unaware that there are alternatives to the nasal cannula that can be discussed openly with your doctor.

7. Exposing Yourself to COPD Triggers

COPD Triggers
Photo courtesy of Getty Images, user Paul Burns

A trigger is anything that you are exposed to that makes your COPD symptoms worse. Not everyone is going to react negatively to the same trigger. Everyone is different. Triggers can be found indoors or outdoors, and once you identify what they are, you can learn how to avoid them.

8. Expending Too Much Energy

Energy Conservation
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Have you ever found yourself worn out before you have even started your day? Does your shortness of breath get so bad that you can't finish daily tasks that you used to be able to perform? If this sounds familiar, you may need to start pacing yourself better to conserve more energy. Not only will conserving your energy help you get through your day, but it will help you deal with the most frightening aspect of COPD -- breathlessness.

9. Subjecting Yourself To Poor Indoor Air Quality

Improving Indoor Air
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Were you aware that indoor air is sometimes more polluted than outdoor air? You can just imagine the impact this can have on your breathing if you spend a great deal of time at home. Improving indoor air quality is not only important for those with chronic illnesses, but will also benefit the entire family, pets included.

10. Allowing Yourself to Become Too Stressed Out

Reducing Stress
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Can chronic stress make COPD worse? You bet it can! Chronic stress is actually related to a number of chronic illnesses, including heart disease, stroke and obesity. It can even contribute to a worsening of COPD. Part of a healthy lifestyle includes ways to reduce stress that can be incorporated into your daily life. Do you need to learn ways to help you unwind? Follow the tips below:

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