COPD: How To Avoid It, Recognize It and Live With It

Take a big, deep breath.

How does that feel? Consider yourself fortunate if deep breathing is easy and refreshing.

For more than 300 million people around the world, that breath is a painful fight for air.

They suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, a large number of conditions – like chronic bronchitis and emphysema – characterized by a painful restriction of the lungs due to inflammation from smoke or other pollutants.

You’re going to be hearing a lot more about COPD in the future:

  • In about 15 years, COPD is expected to become the leading cause of death worldwide.
  • COPD is already the sixth leading cause of death in the US.
  • There’s no cure or repair of damaged tissues.
  • COPD grows worse over time.
  • Most of these COPD related diseases are preventable, notably, by never smoking, although non- smokers can also get COPD.

Now the Good News!
How many times do we hear about the miracles of a good diet, exercise and positive self-management of our own care? The same can be true for you, even with COPD. At Marquis senior living communities, our expertly designed programs teach you how to live an active life despite the illness. For instance, our Deep Breath program provides you with tailor-made exercises to grow stronger and feel less fatigue. You’ll also learn self-management skills that studies show reduce the chances of hospitalizations and provide a higher quality of life.

In this blog, we’ll answer four of the top questions about COPD. You’ll get tips from Vicki Nordby, RN, BSN, a 14 year nurse consultant with Marquis Companies. Vicki is part of the interdisciplinary team of Marquis pharmacists, nurses, dietitians and therapists who developed the Breath Deep Program for reducing rehospitalizations due to COPD. You’ll learn how to…

  • Avoid COPD
  • Recognize COPD symptoms
  • Live a good life even with COPD

4 Ways to Fight COPD

 #1 How do I avoid getting COPD?

#2 How do I recognize the symptoms of COPD?

Discomfort and pain. Imagine feeling like your lungs are tightly constricted, unable to adequately take in and push out air. That’s one of the more obvious and painful red flags for COPD. Here are more:

  • Chest tightness
  • Fatigue
  • Breathlessness
  • Wheezing
  • Chronic cough
  • Inability to engage in normal activities like enjoying a walk or engaging with friends and family.
  • Anxiety that comes from the emotional toll these physical symptoms are having on your body and mind.

If you feel any of those symptoms, contact your doctor immediately and ask for a COPD test, called a spirometry. It’s fast and simple. Using a mouthpiece, you take in your biggest breath possible then blow that breath out as hard as you can. Check out this video to see what you can expect. And learn more about identifying COPD in this Marquis blog.

#3 If I’m diagnosed with COPD, what is my treatment?

Along with your doctor’s recommendations, you can adopt the Marquis Deep Breathing Program, easy steps developed by our own healthcare professionals. Get started right away and do it daily.

  • Precisely take your daily medications including the metered dose inhalers. These devices can be expensive and easy to use the wrong way. Also, take charge and ask your provider to review all your medications once again. Here’s what to ask:
    • What are my medications?
    • Do any of them interfere with one another?
    • Am I taking them at the right dose and right time of day/night?
    • Do I need a tracking system like med boxes?
  • Exercise. That comfy recliner or couch is not your friend. Too much rest is the green light for mucus to move into a nice, warm environment – our lungs – settle in and grow bacteria. Movement shakes things up! Your doctor or therapist can suggest simple exercises or walking plans that give you time to rest between movements. You can also check out some of our Marquis fitness recommendations on fitness and balance.
  • Eat a Heart Healthy Diet. Obesity and heart disease often accompany COPD. The colorful, Mediterranean diet is best. Increase your proteins and good fats as you age. And lower carbohydrates and Always check with your doctor before making any changes in your diet.
  • Avoid Infections:
    • Double up on handwashing. COPD patients are more vulnerable to disease and infection. 20 seconds –– that’s how much time it takes to kill germs. Don’t want to count? Just sing Happy Birthday to yourself, two times.
    • Stay up to date on your vaccinations. For those over 60, add the RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) vaccine. Many rehospitalizations (where there are plenty of germs) for COPD patients are due to colds, flues and COVID. All affect your lung health. Stay away from anyone who is sick and don’t be afraid to use your masks again.

#4 What does it mean to know my COPD “Zone”?

If you have COPD, it’s important to pause twice a day and check how you’re doing. You can identify them in colors in this COPD Action Plan but here are the definitions of each zone.

  • Green Zone
    Here’s where you want to stay. This is the goal. In the green zone, symptoms are under control. You’re sleeping well. You aren’t experiencing shortness of breath or coughing.
  • Yellow Zone
    This is the beginning of the warning period. Symptoms include increased coughing, shortness of breath, swelling of the ankles, less energy, cold symptoms, feeling the need to use your rescue inhaler (separate from the regular inhaler) to quickly open the lungs. If you’re in the yellow zone, call your doctor immediately and provide an update on your condition. Your doctor may order some lab work, chest x rays or change your inhaler and prescribe antibiotics.
  • Red zone
    Symptoms in the red zone include significant shortness of breath, inability to perform basic activities, the rescue inhaler no longer helps, there’s chest pain, fever and even coughing up blood. This may signal a secondary infection from the mucus sitting in the lungs. This is life threatening. Call 911. Go to the emergency room.

Every day we see how these steps are helping our residents with COPD find it easier to breath deep and enjoy their lives!

Look for our December blog with another tip on avoiding complications with COPD and it’s just in time for flu season. We’ll answer your questions about which vaccines to get and when and how Marquis stays on top of keeping our communities safe and healthy. Happy Thanksgiving!