COPD, Asthma, and YOU: A New Year's Super-Resolution

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Here’s a New Year’s Super-Resolution to help you manage all of the others: Take. It. Slow.

Whether you have COPD, asthma, or not, you’re likely bombarded at this time of year with advice to make your life better in the new year. Many of these resolutions are self-imposed. Many others are urged by family, friends, or health care providers. But there’s one resolution that might be overlooked.

“Take It Slow”

“Take it slow” doesn’t mean that you should do everything slowly. Rather, it’s a shorthand way of saying that you should go at your own pace. Your pace should be the one that feels right for you in the present moment.

Perhaps it’s a nice morning with decent weather. You awaken from a good night’s rest feeling energetic and refreshed. This could be a good time for a brisk walk (defined according to your general capability) to get some exercise.

Or perhaps you’re feeling tired and having some difficulty breathing. You understand that you need to get some exercise even then. But this time, your morning (or afternoon!) walk turns into a slower, shorter stroll.

The point is that either approach—brisk or slow—is the right approach depending on how you feel at that particular moment. Either way, you’re still getting exercise that will improve your sense of well-being.

Last May, Right2Breathe co-founder, Joe Morrison, told us that people should never tell someone with lung disease to hurry up. Joe’s father suffered from COPD and often would make breathing harder by rushing. Joe used to tell him, “The slower you go, the faster you get there.”

Joe also advised people with lung disease to keep moving but at their pace, not someone else’s.

Going at your own particular pace is one way of being kind to yourself. And being kind to yourself, taking care of yourself, is also being kind to your loved ones.

With that as the basic New Year’s resolution that we must always keep in mind, let’s mention a few other resolutions to help make the new year a good one. We’ve already addressed many of these topics, so please follow the links for more detailed information.

Eat Healthy

Nearly all of us commit to eating healthier during the new year. But figuring out how to do that and sticking to it is not so easy, especially for anyone with breathing difficulties. People with COPD need to know which major type they have: chronic bronchitis or emphysema.

Chronic bronchitis often calls for a diet leading to weight loss. Emphysema often requires a diet to help people gain weight. It is extremely important to obtain guidance from your health care provider about the correct diet for you.

In general, those with breathing difficulties will benefit from a “Mediterranean diet”—one that features higher quantities of fresh (or frozen) fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, fish, extra virgin olive oil, fiber and whole grains. Red meat, refined grains, sugar-added foods and beverages, and processed meat and foods are usually avoided in this diet.

Eating healthy also requires good meal preparation, a task that be more difficult for someone with COPD or for caregivers. We have compiled a summary of general guidelines, several meal preparation tips, and resources for healthy and quick recipes. Check it out to make cooking and eating easier.

Get Exercise

We mentioned exercise above, but there are important things to consider in order to get the most benefit from exercise. Types of exercise that can improve breathing include deep breathing, stretching, cardiovascular exercise, and strengthening routines.

Making exercise part of your daily and weekly routine can help you make progress toward your goals. Exercise when you naturally feel better or have more energy. Try to exercise 3 to 4 times per week. Proceed at your own steady pace, relax, and breathe freely.

When the weather warms sufficiently, get outside. Usually (but not always), the air quality outside is better. You will also enjoy a change of scenery and have more fun. Outdoor activity, especially walking, is beneficial, but be careful not to inhale super cold and dry air.

Always consult your physician before beginning or modifying any exercise program.

Avoid Allergens

Most of us know to avoid chemical and other artificial allergens. Above all, persons with breathing difficulties should not smoke and should avoid environments in which others smoke.

In addition, several biological allergens can impede breathing. These include pollens, molds, dust mites, pet dander, cockroaches, and various bacteria and viruses. Controlling these allergens indoors and limiting exposure to them outside can vastly improve your ability to breathe freely throughout the year.

Listen to Music

Listening to music can be an important way to reduce stress and reduce the frequency and severity of COPD exacerbations.

In fact, research shows that listening to music can reduce fatigue, pain, and depression. Such improvements help people relax and improve breathing.

You can also listen to your favorite calming music and combine that with yoga or meditation.

So, throughout the year, set a regular time to listen to music with family or friends. Listening together also brings feelings of warmth and support that will benefit everyone involved.

Good Wishes for the New Year

During the coming year as you eat healthy, exercise, avoid allergens, and listen to music, please be kind to yourself. Remember your super-resolution: take it slow and go at your own pace.

We hope the next year brings new opportunities to improve your breathing and quality of life. Please let us know if any of these recommendations help you.