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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

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Living with COPD

Nina Ghamrawi, MS, RD, CDE
October 3, 2022
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Whether you are new to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or you have had it for a while, there are some basic tips for living with COPD that many people swear by. With chronic shortness of breath making daily activities difficult, to carrying around your oxygen, living with COPD can be tough. Some symptoms of COPD might even make you lose too much weight or not get enough nutrients. Look through the list to see what you can do to live comfortably with COPD.

Nutrition and Eating

  • Have 5-6 small, frequent meals throughout the day.
  • Aim for 6-8 glasses of fluid intake daily, and drink fluid between meals, to make it easier to eat.
  • Rest at least 30 minutes before meals.
  • Avoid foods that can cause gas and bloating such as beans, cabbage, and carbonated drinks.

Exercise

  • See an exercise specialist or participate in a Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program to get started with exercise.
  • Exercise is not just about walking and running. For COPD, the best is building muscle. Try out Stretching, aerobic, resistance.
  • Check blood oxygen levels as needed before, during and after exercise.
  • Stop exercise when SpO2 drops >4% during exercise or SpO2 is <88%.
  • Ask doctor about a target resting SpO2 range for you before starting exercise to avoid hypoxemia.

Keep Your Weight Healthy

  • There is strong evidence suggesting association between body weight status and mortality in adults with COPD. A BMI of approximately 25 to 29.9 is associated with the lowest risk of death from complications of COPD, compared to both higher and lower BMI ranges.
  • Check weight weekly, if at risk for underweight.

Living with Oxygen Supplementation

  • Reduce tubing movement and friction: Adjust the slider so your tubes are higher and tighter on your cheeks. If tubing is still moving around a lot, use soft, fabric medical tape to tape the tubing behind your ears.
  • Moisten your nose: the nostrils get dry with continuous oxygen. Use a humidifier, or nasal lubricant to get you more comfortable.
  • Oxygen timing: Depending on your prescription, you may need oxygen at night to help you get enough while sleeping, when you are exercising, making the bed, or gardening, or you may need it at all times. It does not treat your COPD, but it can help you manage complications of COPD, and prevent more serious issues.  
  • Travel safely: contact your physician and the transportation company at least 6 weeks in advance, especially airline, as they may require additional medical certificates or additional medical procedures before flying. Try to arrive at your destination on a business day, during the day. If you need oxygen supplies you can get it sooner. If traveling:

By car - make sure your oxygen tank is secured, and always standing, preferably in the back seat.

By train or boat - contact the transportation company. They may be able to ensure you have the resources available in case you need them during your trip.

By plane - airline companies normally supply oxygen during the flight. Contact them to let them know, and expect to incur additional costs.  

Takeaways

When dealing with COPD, not getting enough oxygen can make life difficult: simply eating or moving around can make you out of breath, and since breathing slows down while we sleep, the amount of oxygen in our blood can be significantly reduced, and disrupt even our sleep. Getting used to all the changes, and understanding how to navigate your body’s new restrictions can take some time. We hope you use these tips to help make your life easier with COPD, and remember: your Care Team is only a text message away.

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