Other ways to take charge of your health
By taking some actions, you have an opportunity to take an active role in your health in so many ways. You can decide to quit cigarettes for good or pick up tips on more effective ways to breathe. You can even tackle handling the emotional blues the disease can bring. Big steps, for sure, but nothing you can't try once you make the commitment to do it.
When you're ready to take action:
People who quit smoking can significantly slow down the loss of lung function from COPD. Quitting smoking has also been shown to help people with COPD live longer. In fact, your risk of heart attack begins to drop within three short months after quitting.
You probably know, first-hand, that quitting cigarettes is one of the toughest things you've ever tried to do. First bit of advice: Don't go it alone. Studies show that the more support you have, the better your chance of success. Counseling and/or an organized program can be very helpful. Get family members and friends— especially former smokers—to help you resist the urge to smoke. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about treatment and behavioral support programs that can help you stop smoking.
Don't give up if your initial attempts fail. Most smokers try several times before quitting for good!
Pursed-lip breathing may be one simple way to help with shortness of breath. You can use it any time, any place. Here's how:
- Concentrate on relaxing your shoulder and neck muscles.
- Inhale slowly, taking in a normal breath.
- Pucker your lips, sometimes called "pursed lips."
- Exhale while keeping your lips pursed, like you are breathing out through a straw. Try to exhale for at least four seconds. Sometimes it helps if you count to yourself while exhaling.
While pursed-lip breathing may help, it's always a good idea to have your rescue inhaler with you if you become short of breath.
If you learn to relax your abdominal muscles as you breathe in, your diaphragm will have more room to move, and you'll be able to take in more air. This breathing technique can help.
- Lie down in a comfortable position.
- Place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest.
- Inhale slowly through your nose to the count of two. Your abdominal muscles should move out, and your chest should stay still.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles and let them fall inward while you count to four as you exhale. Feel your muscles tighten. Your chest should remain still.
People living with COPD are all different, and each person reacts to the disease differently—physically and emotionally. Some people are able to deal with the negative emotions that can be associated with COPD. For others, it can be a much bigger challenge. Some with COPD may miss the more active life they once lived or feel they brought the disease upon themselves.
If you've experienced emotional blues with COPD, you are not alone.
But there's good news: There are things you can do to help deal with the negative feelings, and COPD support groups may be one place to start. The American Lung Association sponsors Better Breather's Clubs™ throughout the country. Visit their Web site to find out more.
You should also speak with your doctor if you are feeling anxious and/or depressed. He or she may suggest some therapies that can help improve both your physical and psychological well-being. If someone is helping to care for you, let that person in on how you are feeling, as well.
Better Breather's Club™ is a trademark of Breathe California of Los Angeles County.