Have a Better Day

Dawn-to-dark tips to help you breathe right, stay healthy, and feel your best

Photo: Man walking and lifting weights outdoors.

COPD can put more than a few wrinkles in your day. Here are some simple ways to soothe your symptoms and feel your best morning, noon, and night.

MORNING

Feed your muscles. Your breathing muscles need fuel—and require you to consume up to 10 times more calories than you'd need if you didn't have COPD. Start your morning with a breakfast that will give you plenty of energy for the day. Good choices include whole grain toast or cereal and fruit. Wash it down with a glass of milk for a dose of calcium, which is important because COPD is linked to bone loss.

LATE MORNING

Go for a brisk walk. Exercise won't tax your respiratory system, it'll strengthen it. A 2016 study in the journal Breathe found that, along with heart benefits, exercise heightens energy levels and endurance in people with COPD.

One caution: If outdoor air quality is poor, stay inside. Basic allergens such as pollen or dust mites can irritate your lungs.

On those hot and humid days, try yoga, tai chi, or light strength training instead. Tai chi is proven to help lower blood pressure, build strength, and improve balance and flexibility, making it easier to sustain an exercise program safely.

MIDDAY

Phone a friend. COPD can make it tough to socialize, and that isolation can cause sadness, anger, and even depression. Connecting with a friend or family member, even briefly, can brighten your day.

Even better: Since you'll need to replenish your energy stores with a noon bite, invite a friend to join you for lunch, and unwind in the process.

AFTERNOON

Give your lungs a workout. Boost your health—and circumvent the mid-afternoon slump—by spending 5 to 10 minutes strengthening your breathing muscles. Doctors recommend that you do this two to three times a day. Two options:

  • Practice belly breathing. Sit or lie down, placing one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly. Breathe in slowly through your nose and check that the hand on your stomach is the one that rises, not the one on your chest. Breathe out through pursed lips by tightening your stomach muscles. Repeat.
     
  • Consider an exercise plan. Certain exercises can help reduce COPD symptoms and lift your mood. You may be eligible for a pulmonary rehabilitation program with a respiratory therapist. Ask your doctor for recommendations.

EVENING

Eat a bowl of strawberries. Drinking water can thin the mucus in your lungs, so it's easier to cough up. Six to eight glasses a day is a good target, but ask your doctor what's right for you. Eating foods high in water content, like strawberries, watermelon, celery, and zucchini, may also help.


ENJOY THE COOKOUT!
Here's how you can beat the heat and humidity and enjoy this favorite summertime activity.

  • Check forecasts for humidity, air quality, and thunderstorms—all of which can affect how you feel—and plan your cookout accordingly as much as possible.
     
  • Ask someone else to work the grill so you can stay way from smoke or fumes.
     
  • Hydrate with chilled water that contain slices of fruit, like melon, berries, and lime. Go easy on alcohol. It dehydrates.