Lifestyle Changes That Can Help You Manage COPD

Eating right, exercising and watching your weight are a few COPD lifestyle changes that'll do wonders for your lungs.

Medically reviewed in August 2018

Updated on March 1, 2021

Taking your doctor-prescribed medication is a vital way for you to manage 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 COPD lifestyle changes 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.  
  • 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 healthcare provider (HCP) 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 HCP or pulmonary specialist before beginning any new exercise program. 

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 HCP about a healthy, calorie-controlled diet and a safe program of exercise for losing weight. 

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