Skip to main content

Health library

Back to health library

8 ways to live a better life with COPD

An older woman sitting with her hand pressed against her forehead.

Lifestyle changes, taking medications and paying close attention to your health can help you breathe easier with COPD.

Learning you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is never easy. But if you've just been diagnosed—or even you've had COPD for some time—you're far from powerless.

There are many ways to help protect your lungs, control your symptoms and have a better quality of life. Here are eight key ones recommended by the American Lung Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute:

1. If you smoke, make every effort to stop. Quitting is the best thing you can do to breathe easier and prevent more damage to your lungs. Don't be discouraged if you've tried unsuccessfully to quit in the past. It often takes several serious tries to quit for good. Ask your doctor about products that can help make nicotine withdrawal easier, and solicit support from your friends and family.

2. Steer clear of other lung irritants. Air pollution, chemical fumes, dust and secondhand smoke can all make COPD worse. If possible, keep your windows closed and stay home when there's lots of pollution or dust outside. If you're getting your home painted or sprayed for insects, arrange a time when you can stay away for a while. And don't be shy about asking people not to smoke near you.

3. Remain active. Exercising with COPD might not seem safe—or even possible. But the right exercise can boost your body's use of oxygen and strengthen the muscles that help you breathe. That means you'll be less short of breath.

Talk with your doctor about what type of exercise is best for you. Also ask about taking advantage of pulmonary rehabilitation. This exercise and education program will help you learn how to exercise safely, be more active and manage COPD.

4. Take the right medicine at the right time. Take any medicine your doctor prescribes exactly as directed. Don't change doses on your own.

5. Make doctor visits routine. See your doctor regularly. For the best treatment, be honest about your symptoms or concerns at every visit. Let your doctor know what's really going on with your breathing.

6. Work with your doctor to create a COPD action plan. This written plan spells out how to take your medicine, when to call your doctor and when to get emergency care. It can help clear up any confusion you might have about managing your disease and symptoms.

7. Protect your overall health. With COPD, a cold or other respiratory illness might quickly become dangerous. So wash your hands often to scrub away germs and use hand sanitizer when soap and water aren't handy. Also be sure to get vaccinated against the flu and pneumonia.

8. Consider joining a support group. An online or nearby support group for people with COPD may help you learn new ways to cope with the disease.

Reviewed 5/22/2023

Related stories