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Living with COPD

Updated: Mar 21, 2022

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can be challenging, especially since the disease can dramatically impact your life as you may have known it. A diagnosis of COPD can lead to feelings of hopelessness because as the disease progresses, things like physical activity or even social interaction become more difficult.

Despite all of this, you can help improve the quality of your life even with COPD. By implementing lifestyle changes, learning ways to cope, and with the help of Doctor's and top-notch treatment, you can slow the progression of the disease and continue to live—to the fullest extent possible.


Dealing with the emotions that come along with a COPD diagnosis

A diagnosis of COPD can bring a roller coaster of emotions along with it. Fear, anxiety, sadness, grief, and shame are just a few of the feelings you might experience. All of these emotions are perfectly normal and understandable, and they will get easier as you make necessary changes to feel more in control of your health. Staying on top of your mental health is important because it affects your quality of life as well as your physical health.

Some people feel intense remorse after they get diagnosed. In particular, this happens with smokers and former smokers, who develop a sense of guilt about the impact their habit has had on their health. If you feel overwhelmed, try to forgive yourself. Seek help when you need it, and don't feel ashamed of needing it.


How make life with COPD a little easier

-Educating yourself and your loved ones about COPD. Learn everything you can about how it affects your lungs and your life, and share it so your family & friends can best support you—whether that's by running errands or helping you remember to take your medication.


-Reducing stress in your life can help keep exacerbations at bay.

Here are some tips:

  • Make time to do the activities and hobbies that you enjoy.

  • Try relaxation exercises such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation.

  • Get enough sleep to feel rested during the day.

  • Watch your diet. Too much sugar and high-calorie junk food can sap your energy, leading you to feel unproductive and anxious.

  • Pinpoint areas of your life that cause you stress. This could be money, social situations, having too many responsibilities, or grief over your diagnosis. Work on fixing or eliminating these sources of stress and if you need help, ask for it.


-Smoking cessation is the most important aspect of living with COPD. Continuing to smoke causes additional lung damage, and also predisposes you to COPD exacerbations. Beyond smoking cessation, there are a number of other things you can do to protect your health from further problems when you have COPD such as avoiding 'flare-up triggers'. This might include things like:

  • Secondhand cigarette smoke

  • Fumes from a wood-burning stove

  • Certain perfumes

  • harsh cleaning products

Consider these simple ways to improve your health at home too:

  • Improve the air quality in your home. Consider using an air filter to prevent excessive dust and debris from getting through your air conditioning unit.

  • Remove all throw rugs from the floors or clean them frequently.

  • Place safety bars inside showers, and bathtubs and along walkways both inside and outside your home & remove any cords and other debris from pathways around the home.

  • Do not allow yourself to be near anyone who smokes (especially if you're on oxygen).

  • Write down emergency numbers and place them in a visible place.


-Practicing energy conserving techniques will help you pace yourself so you can complete whatever you need to do without getting so out of breath. For example, remember that it's OK to take your time speaking. Talk in short phrases or sentences and pause while you are speaking to rest if necessary.


-If you're getting short of breath while you're trying to eat, you're not alone. This is a frequent problem in people with COPD and one of the most important to overcome, as malnutrition is a common complication of COPD.

Simple tips to help:

  • Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day.

  • Allow yourself plenty of time to eat.

  • Avoid foods that force you to chew excessively.

  • Since many people who suffer from COPD frequently eat less, try focusing on eating foods that are high in calories to maximize your caloric intake.

  • Supplement your diet with liquid meal preparations, like Boost or Ensure.


-Exercise is an essential part of all our daily lives. When you have COPD, it's especially important. Implementing simple stretching and breathing exercises or a daily walk will help you maintain your physical and emotional well-being.


There are roughly 16 million people living with COPD in the U.S. You're not alone, and we are here to help.

GMRI is currently recruiting volunteers living with COPD aged 40+. COPD study related Medical exams at no cost to you, with no insurance involvement. Study Treatment is free of charge, and compensation for your time and travel is provided.

For more information on how you can improve your life with COPD, or for information on our currently enrolling COPD study, visit our website, or give us a call at (802) 855-8368.

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