Let’s face it: After you received your chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) diagnosis, you felt lost and confused as to where and how you should begin to properly manage this progressive respiratory disease. Ensuring that you have a multidisciplinary care approach to managing your COPD is just as vital as your urge to improve health and wellness. According to the World Health Organization, “an effective COPD management plan includes four components: 1) assess and monitor COPD, 2) reduce risk factors, 3) manage stable COPD; 4) manage exacerbations.”
Today we will give you a part 1 of a detailed plan to help you learn how to properly and effectively manage your COPD like a respiratory therapist.
A Quick Overview of COPD
How does COPD impact your health, you may ask? COPD is an umbrella term used to describe a progressive inflammatory lung disease that causes airflow to be restricted to your lungs. COPD includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory asthma, and some forms of bronchiectasis. COPD is also a comorbid disease that impacts multiple systems in your body. The third leading cause of death in the United States, COPD is characterized by increasing breathlessness.
Often patients aren’t just faced with COPD. Other conditions (comorbidities) may include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis, depression, and cancer.
There is no cure for COPD; however, with proper treatment and disease management, you will be able to live an enjoyable life according to your terms.
Tips to Help You Succeed in Disease Management
Search for help: You should not face COPD alone. To help you succeed in COPD management, you should always be willing to seek help. MyCOPDTeam is a good course for online support.
Motivation is key: You should always be self-motivated enough to seek additional treatment options and be willing to take the necessary extra step to improve your disease.
Stick to instructions: Your caregivers and doctors have extremely valuable advice and instructions that you should strictly follow to enhance the overall quality of your life.
- Research persistently: This is key! Take the initiative to constantly educate yourself on ways you can improve your overall health. Then you should consult with your team of doctors about your newfound knowledge.
What is a COPD management team?
A COPD management team simply refers to the team of doctors or specialists you see. Each provides helpful insight into the different aspects of your disease management.
A COPD management team may consist of your:
- Respiratory therapist
- Case manager
- Registered nurse
- Registered dietician
- Occupational therapist
Now that you are aware of your COPD management team and the tips you need to succeed in disease management, let’s discuss the steps you need to take so you can start managing your COPD like a respiratory therapist.
Minimize the Occurrence of COPD Exacerbations (Flare-ups)
When it comes to COPD, there is nothing that can impact your symptoms more than an exacerbation. The event of an exacerbation is defined as the sudden worsening of felt symptoms - mainly breathlessness, cough, and mucus production - that rapidly accelerate lung deterioration. Flare-ups are mainly caused by exposure to COPD triggers or when developing a viral or bacterial infection such as influenza, the common cold, or pneumonia.
Though flare-ups cannot be completely prevented, there are steps that you can take to help prevent the occurrence of symptom worsening flare-ups. Things like smoking cessation, avoiding COPD triggers, receiving flu and pneumonia vaccinations, and taking prescribed medications.
Indoor COPD triggers to avoid:
- Tobacco smoke
- Chemical fumes (cleaning products, paints)
- Pet dander
- Products with added fragrances (candles, perfumes, air fresheners)
- Pollution indoors (cleaning fumes, fireplace)
Outdoor COPD triggers to avoid:
- Tobacco smoke
- Extreme heat or cold
- Air pollution (car exhaust, factory pollution)
- High pollen counts
In case you didn’t know, smoking tobacco is the main cause of COPD and is responsible for as many as nine out of 10 COPD-related deaths, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Women are especially prone to lung damage from smoking, since their lungs are smaller, and lung disease is worsened by estrogen. Deaths from COPD in women are higher than in men. If you are struggling to quit despite all efforts, speak with your doctor about possible smoking cessation programs.
Tips to quit smoking:
- Avoid smoking triggers
- Stay clear of the smoking section
- Get assistance to quit by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW
- Nicotine replacement therapy
- Ask your loved ones for support
- Eat fruits and vegetables
- Never give up
Pulmonary rehab (PR) is a perfect example of a COPD management team in action. With multidisciplinary teams, your treatment is optimized to enhance your physical and social functioning. Pulmonary rehab may be inpatient, outpatient, or home-based. Most PR programs include at least three sessions per week for a minimum of six weeks. It is highly recommended that every patient diagnosed with COPD go through their local PR program.
Pulmonary rehab will teach you about medications, using oxygen therapy, preventing exacerbations, proper dieting and exercise, breathing techniques that reduce breathlessness, and symptom assessment so you know when to seek medical attention. PR also offers psychological support, since COPD patients are more likely to develop depression, anxiety, or other emotional problems.
Still not convinced pulmonary rehab is for you? To help with management after completing rehab, an exercise and diet plan will be developed specifically for your health needs. Plus you will be in an environment with like-minded patients who know your struggle. Who knows? You may even make a few friends in the process - which improves mental health.
Benefits of pulmonary rehab:
- Learn how to function better in day to day life
- Increased exercise tolerance
- Reduced symptoms
- Anxiety and depression management
- Reduced occurrence of exacerbations
- Diet and exercise plan tailored to your specific needs
- Meet like-minded COPD patients
- Peace of mind thanks to support from specialists
About the Author: Eden Coleman is a dedicated content developer for COPDStore.com, where he pursues his passion of providing actionable and benefit-driven customer education tips for respiratory and obstructed sleep apnea (OSA) patients.