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Changes That Can Help You Manage COPD

Changes That Can Help You Manage COPD

Eating right, exercising, and managing your weight can do wonders for your lungs.

Taking your doctor-prescribed medication is vital to the effective management of your COPD symptoms. But there is even more you can do to help yourself breathe better and feel better. Eating right, exercising, quitting smoking and managing your weight can have multifaceted benefits. These lifestyle choices could boost your energy levels, lift your spirits, and improve your overall lung function. Read on for some tips on how to make these choices a natural fit with your life.

Choose inflammation-fighting foods
What you eat—or don't eat—could have an impact on your symptoms and overall lung function. Early-stage research suggests that certain foods may boost bad-for-your-lungs inflammation, while other foods may help diminish it, based on the way they affect oxidative stress in the body.

  • Edibles to minimize: Diets high in cured and red meats, processed grains, sugary desserts, and saturated fats (think french fries and nachos) may worsen COPD symptoms because these items tend to provoke inflammation in the body. Make these foods more of an occasional treat and less of a staple to help improve your lung function. (Read this article for some great ways to reduce the amount of red meat in any meal.)
  • Edibles to maximize: Likewise, some research suggests that diets high in fruit, veggies, fish, soy, and whole grains might help slow the decline of lung function because of their inflammation-fighting qualities. And although there are no studies on their impact on COPD symptoms, research does suggest that foods rich in antioxidant vitamins A, C, D, and E—as well as omega-3 fatty acids from fish—may be generally beneficial to overall lung function.

Boost your lungs with exercise
Although it may seem counterintuitive, exercise can actually improve your lung capacity and ability to breathe. On the other hand, becoming sedentary may make lung function worse. But because of your COPD, you need to work closely with your doctor or respiratory therapist to develop a safe, manageable exercise routine. Ideally, it should include in-home pulmonary rehabilitation exercises as well as endurance and strength training to help strengthen your breathing muscles and increase your lung capacity. Again, be sure to check with your doctor or pulmonary specialist before beginning any new exercise program. (If your doctor gives you a green light to start a walking program, check out our Walking Center for tips, motivation, and support.)

Slim down to breathe better
Did you know? Excess body weight—especially extra pounds around the middle—can press on the diaphragm and make it harder to breathe. So if you need to lose weight, you now have some extra incentive. Ask your doctor about a healthy, calorie-controlled diet and a safe program of exercise for losing weight. (Start losing that belly fat today with these weight loss tools from Sharecare.)

Medically reviewed in August 2018.

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