Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a destructive and irreversible lung condition in which the airways become blocked, making it difficult to breathe. When left untreated, COPD has a serious impact on quality of life and can often be fatal. Though long seen as primarily affecting men, recent years have seen a growing COPD epidemic among Canadian women, to the point where its mortality rate now exceeds that of breast cancer.
Dr. Alan Kaplan, a family physician and Chairperson of the Family Physician Airways Group of Canada, and Lisa Thibeault, a Certified Respiratory Educator and Respiratory Therapist from the Winnipeg Clinic Pulmonary Function Lab have provided six simple tips to help those with COPD manage the disease.
Ask your doctor for a lung function test
“We make a diagnosis based on symptoms and risk factors and then a lung function test,” says family physician Dr. Alan Kaplan, Chairperson of the Family Physician Airways Group of Canada. “As a patient you should never accept a COPD diagnosis without a lung function test.”
Avoid cigarette smoke
“Smoking cessation is a must,” says Lisa Thibeault, Certified Respiratory Educator and Respiratory Therapist. “If you get a diagnosis of COPD and you continue to smoke, the progression of the disease will be much faster.”
Be proactive to avoid the cold and flu
“With every exacerbation that a COPD patient has, their lung function will decline permanently,” says Thibeault. “I advise my patients to avoid people with upper respiratory infections, to practice good hand hygiene, and to always get their flu and pneumonia shots.”
Practice healthy lifestyle habits
“By making your body healthier, you can do more with the lung function you have — even if your lungs don’t work well,” says Dr. Kaplan. “That’s the principle of pulmonary rehabilitation, which can do as much for your quality of life as medications.”
Ensure you’re taking medications properly
“It’s important to be adherent, meaning you take your medications properly and in the way they are prescribed,” says Dr. Kaplan. “Also, make sure you’ve shown your inhaler technique to your health care professional.” An AeroChamber Plus® mask or mouthpiece chamber can make it easier to inhale and deliver the medication to where it is needed in the lungs if you use an MDI (puffer).
Try drug-free devices as an additional therapy
“There are non-pharmacological interventions for COPD, and one that really stands out is the Aerobika® OPEP device,” says Thibeault. “It’s an unmedicated device that shakes the airways up, allowing patients to get rid of the mucous that is accumulating in their lungs. We have recent studies showing that proper use of the device can improve breathing and quality of life, reduce COPD flare-ups, and even recoup new areas of the lungs that had previously been plugged by mucus.”
By taking these steps and, most importantly, following up regularly with your health care provider, COPD can be better controlled, thereby stopping or slowing the progression of the disease. If you control COPD, it won’t be able to control you.
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3. Suggett J. Chronic Obstr Pulm Dis 2017;4(3).