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How to Control COPD
The term chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a group of progressive lung diseases that make you breathless and tired because you can’t breathe fully. It is incurable.
COPD is the kind of disease that flares up from time to time. The two most common types of COPD are emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
The exchange… your lungs contain about 600 million air sacs. When you inhale, the oxygen in the incoming air is exchanged for the carbon dioxide in your blood through tiny capillaries connected to these air sacs. This exchange is essential for your health and physical functioning.
When you have emphysema the number of air sacs in your lungs is reduced or they are misshapen or blocked. The result is that your lungs cannot adequately process the exchange of oxygen for carbon dioxide. This reduced capacity compromises your ability to breathe effectively.
When you have bronchitis the airways in your lung become swollen or thicker than normal, causing them to become blocked or obstructed. This makes it harder to exhale and causes chronic (ie, long-term) coughing.
What causes COPD?
The simple answer to this question is chronic inflammation.
There are two types of inflammation… acute and chronic.
Acute inflammation refers to a short-term immune response to a sudden injury. For example, if you cut your finger, the cut will probably be red and swollen the next day. This indicates that chemicals to fight foreign invaders (which may have entered your body through the cut) have been released by your immune system and are doing their job to fight infections. Provided you are fairly healthy, your finger should heal after a few days.
Chronic inflammation happens when the inflammatory response will not be switched off. Your immune system continues to pump out inflammatory chemicals. In other words, inflammation occurs when it is not necessary. It is obviously harmful to your health.
It is becoming increasingly evident that chronic inflammation is the cause of many chronic diseases such as COPD.
Chronic inflammation is also at the root of type 2 diabetes.
Link between COPD and diabetes
Although they have the same root, the link between COPD and diabetes is not clear. There is no concrete research data showing that people with COPD have a greater risk of developing diabetes or vice versa.
However, studies show that approximately 15% of patients with COPD who are admitted to hospital also have diabetes. In the population as a whole, the prevalence of diabetes is just under 10%.
A search for the literature published in Cardiovascular Diabetology looked at COPD as a risk factor for the development of diabetes and vice versa. The researchers concluded that there was a two-way risk between the two diseases.
It appears that COPD increases the incidence of diabetes for several reasons. COPD, for example, causes you to gain weight (because you are less active) and thus increases your resistance to insulin.
On the other hand, diabetes seems to increase the occurrence of lung infections and make COPD worse by causing an increase in flare-ups.
Further research indicates that high blood glucose is linked to reduced lung function. A study in Thorax showed that diabetes was linked to a reduced ability to forcibly expel air from the lungs. This association was made worse by smoking.
It would seem very likely that damage to the nervous system caused by diabetes (diabetic neuropathy) can weaken respiratory muscles, making breathing shallow and less effective… although this link between diabetes and COPD has not been established with certainty.
How to fight COPD
There is no cure for COPD.
However, there are many things you can do to slow the progression of the disease. Many of these are the same things you should do to help you control your diabetes.
Eat a healthy diet
Take regular exercise
Avoid polluted air
Use breathing exercises to train your lungs
Giving up smoking… is a no-brainer if you have COPD. Smoking damages your lungs—it’s probably the cause of why you have COPD—and you desperately need to prevent further damage to your lungs if you want to slow the progression of the disease.
Quitting smoking takes a little willpower, but if you are determined enough, you can do it. Additionally, there are various smoking cessation aids available, such as patches and lozenges, if you are struggling to quit.
Eating a healthy diet… means eating a plant-based, low-sugar, low-fat, low-carb, low-salt, low-GI, high-fiber diet like the Beating Diabetes diet and drink enough water. This type of diet will help you lose excess weight, one of the consequences of COPD, so that it becomes easier to go about your daily routines and give you more energy for walking and so on.
Work out… is not something you cannot do just because you suffer from COPD. In fact, the best way to maintain your lung function is to regularly undertake some form of exercise. Doing a little gardening or going for a gentle walk a few days a week is a great way to start.
Try walking, swimming, cycling, or yoga. But be careful not to work so hard that your lungs can’t keep up – this could cause a flare-up of your symptoms.
Yoga is particularly good for COPD sufferers as it focuses on controlled breathing. In fact, yogic breathing includes some of the breathing exercises that are done during respiratory therapy.
Avoiding pollution… is another no-brainer if you have COPD. Lungs weakened by COPD are particularly vulnerable to air pollution. So pay attention to air quality warnings and avoid situations where air quality is likely to be low, such as dust, chemical fumes, open campfires etc.)
One of the best things you can do for your COPD and to improve your overall health is to undertake regular breathing exercises.
Breathing exercises will improve your respiratory function, thus slowing the progression of COPD. In addition, respiratory exercises will provide a better quality of life.
Here are three such exercises:
Lung muscle training
Pursed lips breathe… is a breathing exercise where you inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, while pursing your lips. You should exhale at half the speed or less than you inhale, ie if you take 4 seconds to inhale, take at least 8 seconds to exhale through pursed lips.
This breathing trick keeps your air waves open longer, reduces the work of breathing and improves the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
Belly breathing… is particularly useful for reducing shortness of breath when exercising or doing strenuous activities such as climbing stairs or lifting heavy objects. It does that by exercising your respiratory musculature.
Lie down and put one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. The hand on your stomach should drop when you exhale and rise when you inhale.
Lung muscle training… the use of a respiratory muscle training device was found to provide significant increases in strength and endurance. The research was carried out in 2007 in the University of Modena in Italy.
IN Respiratory muscle training (RMT) device is a tube that you put on your lips and breathe through. The device partially blocks the flow of air, making it difficult to breathe in and out. The restriction on the air flow can be varied by moving a dial. In addition, you can completely remove the restriction if you want for the inhalation that some therapists recommend.
RTMs are used by athletes to increase their endurance and improve lung function during cardiovascular exercise. This writer, who has a mild form of COPD, has found that using an RTM is a great way to strengthen his respiratory muscles and prevent the progression of his COPD.
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