Top 10 Strategies for Living with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

Our Top 10 Strategies for Living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) - photo by carl-winterbourne-659607-unsplash

While there is no cure for COPD, there’s a lot you can do to manage COPD symptoms, slow its progression and enjoy life to the fullest. So, we decided to make a list for you. Here are 10 actions you can take to feel good and breathe better.

1. Take your medications as prescribed

To make the most of your COPD treatment, take your medications exactly as prescribed. Some inhalers and nebulizers are tricky to use, so it’s helpful to show your doctor how you are using your medication to make sure you are doing it correctly.

2. Stop smoking now

And do not allow others to smoke around you! According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), smoking increases the risk of exacerbations and accounts for as many as 9 out of 10 COPD-related deaths. COPD most often occurs in people age 40 and over who are current or former smokers, however, as many as 1 out of 6 people who have COPD never smoked.

3. Clean air matters

Stay away from pollutants or anything that could irritate your lungs. Common triggers like dust, strong fumes, and cigarette smoke can all cause exacerbations. Other steps you can take are getting a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, removing wall-to-wall carpet and using natural cleaning products like baking soda and vinegar.

4. Stay active and maintain a healthy weight

Being over or underweight increases risks for COPD patients. The NIH recommends twenty minutes of moderate exercise three times a week to reduce the risk of heart disease, decrease shortness of breath and improve your well-being. If you are unable to do 20 minutes of exercise or if you can’t do your normal activities due to shortness of breath, talk to your doctor.


Our Top 10 Strategies for Living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) - photo by nick-karvounis-381270-unsplash

5. Enroll in a pulmonary rehabilitation program

Pulmonary rehabilitation is a program of exercise, education, and support to help you learn to breathe and function at the highest level possible. Many people with COPD experience physical and emotional benefits from participating in pulmonary rehabilitation.

6. Eat smaller meals

COPD patients are usually advised to eat 5-6 small meals per day, rather than 3 large meals. Smaller meals require less effort to eat, which can help COPD patients conserve their energy. Eating smaller meals can also reduce the risk of heartburn and indigestion.

7. Steer clear of sick people

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and any respiratory infection—even a common cold—can be serious for COPD patients. Avoid crowds, wash your hands often, don’t touch your face and ask sick friends and relatives to get better before spending time together.

8. Keep up with your vaccines

For COPD patients, a common cold or other respiratory infection can become very serious. Be sure to get vaccinated against the flu and pneumonia, and encourage everyone in your life to do the same.

Adults can get vaccines at doctors’ offices, pharmacies, workplaces, community health clinics, health departments, and other locations. To find a place near you to get a vaccine, go to

Most health insurance plans cover recommended vaccines. Check with your insurance provider for details and for a list of vaccine providers covered by your plan. If you do not have health insurance, visit to learn more about health insurance options.

For more information on vaccines or to take an adult vaccine quiz to find out which vaccines you might need, go to

9. Use rescue medications as needed

If you’re doing all you can to prevent airway tightness and shortness of breath and you still have trouble breathing, use your prescribed short-acting beta agonists as rescue medications. Your inhaler can help relax the muscles around the lungs’ breathing tubes, reduce swelling in the breathing tubes and reduce mucus production. However, if you’re relying on your inhaler on a frequent basis, do consult your doctor.

10. Share, de-stress and find support

Don’t go it alone. Mental and emotional wellness is a major part of staying healthy, so be sure not to let stress go unchecked. The COPD Foundation has a very active support community called COPD360Social, and it’s a great way to connect with people who share the experience of living with COPD.

What are some of your tips? We would love you to share them with us. Add them in the comment section below!

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Carol Staubi

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