If you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you already know that smoking and eating an unhealthy diet can worsen your condition. But there are other things that you should avoid, too. Here are ten common habits that can harm your health, and what to do instead.
Habit No. 1: You never exercise.
If you aren’t active, you’ll eventually become out of shape — something that, over time, can make even normal daily activities harder to do, says MeiLan King Han, MD, a spokesperson for the American Lung Association, an associate professor of internal medicine in the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of Michigan Health System, and the director of the Women’s Respiratory Clinic.
Habit No. 2: You eat a lot of junk food.
Eating too much high-calorie food can contribute to obesity and worsen people’s ability to breathe and exercise, says Dr. Han. Plus, junk food is often high in sodium, which can cause you to retain fluids — something that could lead to congestion and make it harder for you to breathe, says E. Neil Schachter, MD, a pulmonologist and sleep medicine specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
Habit No. 3: Your sleep schedule is erratic.
Everyone needs quality shut-eye — but that’s especially true for people with COPD, who need to keep their immune systems as healthy as possible, Han says. Staying up late some nights can throw off your body clock and make it difficult for you to get the sleep you need. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can help you stick to your sleep schedule.
Habit No. 4: You leave your oxygen at home when you go out:
For people with low resting saturations who need oxygen, going without oxygen puts excess strain on the heart, Han says. If your doctor has given you a prescription for a delivery system for supplemental oxygen that keeps you mobile, Medicare is required to provide the equipment, according to the COPD Foundation.
Habit No. 5: You overexert yourself:
While it’s important to exercise, going overboard can be dangerous and cause exacerbations, Dr. Schachter says. “People with COPD have lower exercise thresholds — they can’t exercise to high degrees,” he says. “But regular, mild exercise three or four times a week is vital.” The National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute (NHLBI) recommends doing activities at a slow pace.
Habit No. 6: You never dust:
Dust is a lung irritant; one that can worsen COPD, according to the NHLBI. You should also avoid secondhand smoke and fumes from paint or other household chemicals. If you’re not able to clean your house regularly, you may want to find someone who can help you.
Habit No. 7: You drink soda.
Not only can drinking soda cause you to gain weight, but the beverage itself also contains carbonation, which can cause your stomach to swell up. “When your stomach swells, it pushes up against your diaphragm, making it harder for you to breathe,” Schachter says. Choose healthier alternatives, and be sure to stay hydrated.
Habit No. 8: You consume too much caffeine.
Drinks such as coffee and tea and foods like chocolate all contain caffeine, a stimulant that can prevent you from falling asleep. If you’re drinking or eating caffeine, stop by early afternoon, Schachter says.
Habit No. 9: You let yourself get dehydrated.
Without enough water, your mucus can become thick and stick to your lungs, adding to your breathing problems, the COPD Foundation says.
Habit No. 10: You’re constantly stressed out.
Dealing with a chronic lung condition can be stressful on its own; add in work duties and family obligations, and you might find that you’re feeling overly stressed or angry. Consider joining a support group, which can make you feel less lonely, allow you to vent your feelings, and teach you better ways to cope with certain situations. You might also want to ask your doctor if you should seek counseling.