What Your Loved Ones Need to Know About COPD
Know Your Limitations
COPD can make it difficult to breathe, so you may not be able to be as active as you'd like. Limitations vary, though, from person to person. Lifting heavy objects or climbing several flights of stairs may cause you to feel dizzy, but you shouldn't be afraid to challenge yourself. "Most people will adjust their exercise and what they do according to their symptoms," says Dr. Culver. But the bigger problem for most people with this lung disease is that they think they're less capable than they really are. "People tend to back off a little more than they should," Culver says, "so what happens is they're not keeping their exercise capacity up to their best level."
Exercise won't undo the damage to your lungs caused by COPD, but it can help improve your breathing and help you feel better, according to the COPD Foundation. With regular exercise, you can strengthen your muscles and build a more efficient cardiovascular system, which can reduce some strain on lungs that are already taxed by COPD. Stay active without straining yourself to the point that you’re not able to breathe or feel dizzy from a lack of oxygen.
How Family Can Help
Good COPD management starts with one important step for you, as well as your family and friends. "By far the biggest lifestyle change for anybody with COPD is to stop exposure to tobacco products,” Culver says. Even people who have had COPD for a while will slow down the rate of lung function decline by quitting smoking, he explains.
Any friends and family members who smoke need to quit, too, according to the COPD Foundation. At a minimum, there shouldn't be any cigarettes within your reach to tempt you, and friends and family should not smoke near you so you can avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
Make sure your loved ones know that exercise is an important part of your COPD management. And while they shouldn't push you to run a marathon or maybe even jog around the block, they should encourage exercise. Family and friends should feel free to invite you on a leisurely walk or bike ride, or to a family picnic. If an activity is too challenging for you, just let them know. Be active at your own pace, take a break when you need to, and watch from the sidelines if you feel fatigued.
People with COPD can benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation, so encourage loved ones to become involved in your treatment. They can accompany you to rehabilitation sessions and help you practice what you've learned at home to improve your lung function. The American Lung Association (ALA) suggests that you ask your loved ones to attend doctor's visits with you as well, to help with conversations about how you're feeling and any issues you might have with your medications.
Another way to make living with COPD easier is to reach out for support from others with COPD. Ask your loved ones to help you find a local COPD support group and help you get to meetings, the ALA suggests. An online support group is also an option.
By taking a proactive approach and being open with others, you can effectively manage COPD. Help your loved ones understand that, with their help and encouragement, you can live a full and active life with COPD.
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