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3 Myths about COPD that You MUST Know

Nina Ghamrawi, MS, RD, CDE
2
November 12, 2021

What is the root cause for all disease? When managing any chronic condition, we always want to know what caused it, and many of us look for some magic bullet to cure or reverse it. There typically is no way to cure a chronic disease, but almost all can be managed. There are a lot of anecdotal suggestions floating around out there on how to manage your breathing and blood oxygen. In this article we’ll uncover what rumors are true, and what is just wishful thinking.

Myth #1: You need a high fat, low carb diet to control lung function

No. It was previously believed that a high fat and low carbohydrate diet pattern would be beneficial in reducing inflammation, especially in the lungs. However the 2019 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics evidence analysis debunked that myth. There is not much supporting this kind of diet in treating patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, it is suggested by other research that a diet high in complex, high fiber carbohydrates, and low in starches and sugars, may play a role in controlling blood sugars, and thereby reducing lung stress.

Myth #2: Because I have COPD, I cannot exercise

False. People with COPD may get tired much faster, and may not have the lung capacity to do a long duration of exercise. However, diet, by itself, is not the only solution here. Exercise does wonders for boosting muscle mass and strengthening the heart, and has benefits even in very short bursts. However, people with COPD are often at risk for malnutrition, underweight, and also early fatigue. Talk to your doctor about ways that you can incorporate exercise along with diet to boost energy, strength, and muscle mass, without faltering on nutrition.

Myth #3: If I’m overweight, it will increase pressure and stress on my lungs, making my COPD worse.

False.  According the AND 2019 evidence-based research, people that were underweight or at risk of underweight actually had the highest risk of mortality compared with people at higher BMI groups. It was also found that people who are obese, (BMI above 30) are also at increased risk for complications and death from COPD. A Dietitian will have a goal to keep your weight, actually, in a BMI range of approximately 25.0 to 29.99 (considered overweight). The overweight range is actually classified as lowest clinical risk of COPD complications, and lowest mortality risk. Ask your Dietitian about your BMI range. They can help you get the BMI to where it should be, and keep it steady.

Takeaways

In general, light exercise and having a healthy, balanced diet may be very helpful for managing COPD, but because people suffering from COPD often are at increased risk for malnutrition, underweight and exercise complications, maintaining a higher weight, not above or below a BMI of 25-29.9, may be protective against complications, and talking to one’s doctor and dietitian about exercising with COPD is crucial to have the right life balance.