(BPT) - Has shortness of breath ever made you avoid climbing the stairs or walking from one room to another in your own home? Do you experience a persistent cough that deters you from participating in the daily activities you love to do?
If scenarios like these sound familiar to you, this may indicate a more serious disease that shouldn't be ignored. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), an umbrella term used to describe chronic lung diseases like emphysema and chronic bronchitis, is the third leading cause of death in the United States with more than 14 million people identified as having COPD in 2010. Another estimated 12 million people may have the disease, but remain undiagnosed.
It is important to monitor changes in your breathing, as early COPD detection is important for disease management. Recognizing and getting help for symptoms, such as chronic cough, shortness of breath while performing daily activities, frequent respiratory infections, fatigue and wheezing, are key steps in better managing your COPD.
One initiative focusing on spreading awareness of COPD and fostering the importance of disease education is Faces of COPD, a nationwide photo mosaic initiative established by the COPD Foundation and developed by AstraZeneca to increase patient education around COPD and to put a 'face' to the disease.
John Walsh, president and co-founder of the COPD Foundation, an organization devoted to improving the lives of those affected by COPD, believes through knowledge comes empowerment when managing a serious disease like COPD. 'I encourage COPD patients to take an active role in their health by educating themselves about the disease and managing their symptoms through lifestyle changes and working closely with their physician on their individual care plans,' Walsh says.
Proper disease management can sometimes be overwhelming, so here are five quick tips recommended by the COPD Foundation to help stay on top of yours or your loved one's respiratory health:
1. Learn new breathing techniques. Retraining your breathing can help with COPD management. Diaphragmatic breathing is when you breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose, pushing your stomach out as you inhale in order to use the diaphragm and the lower respiratory muscles. Pursed lip breathing is when you use the same diaphragmatic breathing technique, but when you exhale, you pucker your lips like you're getting ready to blow out candles on a birthday cake, breathing out slowly as to not force the air out.
2. Refresh your exercise routine. If you have COPD, you may think exercising isn't an option since it will make you feel too short of breath. However, regular exercise may improve COPD symptoms. Every exercise session should include a warm-up, conditioning phase and a cool down. Of course, make sure to consult your doctor prior to starting a new exercise regimen.
3. Eat smart. Unplanned weight loss affects as much as 40 to 70 percent of COPD patients. To reduce tiredness, eat six small meals instead of three big ones each day as digestion requires energy.
4. Consider appropriate treatment options.COPD is different for everyone, and regardless of disease severity, there are steps patients can take to treat their symptoms and help improve their quality of life. By taking the right medicine at the right time, you may breathe better, participate in more of the activities you like to do and have fewer flare-ups.
5. Don't be afraid to seek assistance. Whether you are someone living with COPD, or someone caring for a loved one with COPD, you may need support in order to help manage the disease. It is OK to not have all the answers. Resources are available, such as the C.O.P.D. Information Line (1-866-316-2673), to help you address common questions or concerns, and is staffed by trained InfoLine Associates.
For more COPD management tips and disease education, visit www.COPDFoundation.org.
3177503 Last Updated 10/15