Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems. It includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

COPD can be caused by smoking, exposure to air pollution, genetic factors, and respiratory infections.

If you notice any possible COPD symptoms, such as frequent coughing or wheezing and shortness of breath, call your doctor immediately.

Take Action

If you’ve already been diagnosed with COPD, it’s important that you work with your doctor to get it under control. Your COPD treatment plan will be unique to you. Use this action plan from the American Lung Association that will help you and your doctor keep track of how you’re doing with your COPD.

The plan, also available in Spanish, will help you understand how and when to take your medicines, when to call your health care provider, and when to get emergency care.

Here are some things you can do to help you control your COPD and live a healthy life.

Your doctor will work with you on a treatment plan for your COPD, which may include avoiding tobacco smoke and air pollutants, medicines like steroids or inhalers, and rehabilitation.

Many people with COPD have mild forms of the disease for which little therapy is needed other than quitting smoking, which is key to any treatment plan. If you need to quit smoking, talk to your doctor about nicotine replacement products and medicines that might help.

Learn more about our Tobacco-Free Quit-Smoking Program.

Here are things you can do to manage your COPD and live your healthiest life.

Avoid pollutants. Avoid exposure to any environmental pollutants that could make your COPD worse. If you smoke, ask your doctor about resources to help you quit, like medicines and group support. If you’re exposed to dust or pollutants at work, talk to your doctor about how to minimize your exposure or ask your health and safety advisor about how you are being protected. You can also get updates about local air quality with apps like AirVisual.

Eat well and maintain a healthy weight. Having the right mix of nutrients in your diet can help you breathe easier. A healthy diet is one with plenty of variety. A registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who specializes in COPD can help keep you on track. Ask your doctor or visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at

Make physical activity part of your daily routine. Regular exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle, even if you have COPD. Moderate exercise can improve how your body uses oxygen, your energy levels, sleep quality, and more. Exercise helps your heart send oxygen to your body and strengthens your respiratory muscles, making it easier to breathe. Talk to your doctor about an exercise routine that includes stretching, aerobics, and strength training. If you work with a trainer, make sure they’re certified by a credible professional organization like the American College of Sports Medicine. Find one here.

Living with COPD can be challenging. It’s common to experience feelings of sadness, fear, and worry. Stick with your treatment plan and try to manage any negative feelings by staying physically active and doing relaxation techniques and breathing exercises. Writing in a journal, drawing and painting, or working on a coloring book can help you process your feelings and quiet your mind.

If these types of feelings don’t go away after a few weeks, or they start to affect your ability to simply live your life, then you may be experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression. It might be helpful to talk with a mental health professional or others with COPD who understand how you feel. Your doctor can recommend a mental health professional for you and may know of a local support group as well.

You can also email or call the American Lung Association’s Lung HelpLine at 800-LUNGUSA (800-586-4872) (TTY: 800-501-1068), 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. (CT), Monday through Friday, or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays for free expert information and referral to resources from a nurse or respiratory therapist. Connect with others by joining a Better Breathers Club near you.

Along with your doctor and care team, it’s important to talk to your family and friends about your COPD. Sharing your frustrations and your successes with people who understand what you’re going through can be helpful. You can start by identifying who you want to share your condition with and what you want to share. If it will help, keep a journal of the things you want to talk about.

Talk to your health care team about your mood so you can identify the coping strategies that work for you. Look for a Better Breathers Club or other COPD support group in your area. You can also join an online support community like the Living with COPD Community.

Always talk with your doctor about your condition, any concerns you have, or changes to your health.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

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