Often associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease COPD. So, in fact, it’s one of the two primary conditions that comprise it emphysema is a respiratory condition that involves the gradual degradation of the lungs’ alveolar walls, sparking inflammation within the lungs and narrowing its airways.
Ultimately, this causes a greater difficulty for those with the disease when drawing to expel air, as narrow passageways serve to trap air within the lungs making the process of breathing out increasingly difficult as the disease progresses.
The symptoms of emphysema include shortness of breath, fits of coughing, fatigue and the excessive generation of mucus, all of which can have profound effects on the quality of life of those with chronic lung disease.
Although there are treatment options available through stem cell therapy, inhalers and oxygen therapy, knowing what you can do on a day-to-day basis to improve your lungs can be a benefit in the management of your overall health.
What Can you do to Have Better Breathing with Emphysema
With your health in mind, the Lung Institute is here to give you 5 Simple Steps to Better Breathing with Emphysema and breakdown what you need to improve your quality of life.
1. Quit Smoking
Whether you’re new to our articles or have been a long-time reader, we’ll reiterate this point as we’ve done many times before. If you suffer from lung disease and are currently smoking, STOP. For anyone of any ethnicity, age or genetic history smoking is bad.
If you have a respiratory illness such as COPD, pulmonary fibrosis (PF) or emphysema, the effects of smoking can be devastating. Cigarette smoke is one of the worst lung irritants out there (more on that later) and in truth, a single smoked cigarette can lower your overall lifespan by as much as 11 minutes.
When combining this information with that fact that a pack contains approximately 20 cigarettes, that’s approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes being shaved off your life with every pack. If you smoked a pack of cigarette a day that would mean that within a week, you roughly lost a day of your life.
Although we all know cigarettes are bad, unhealthy and most importantly, incredibly difficult to quit, it’s fundamentally worth the effort. If quitting today meant you gained an extra day every week to spend with your grandchildren, would it be worth it?
2. Avoid Lung Irritants
On the subject of lung irritants, air quality as it pertains to lung health is paramount. Whether you’re in an environment that contains a lot of second-hand smoke (for instance living with a current smoker) or working in conditions that contain a lot of air particulates (mining and construction work).
The quality of air around you can have a huge impact if you live with lung disease. These air particulates can generally worsen the progression of your disease, can create an environment of frequent exacerbations and decrease your overall quality of life.
In addressing these lung irritants, it’s important to master your space. If you live with a current smoker, ask them (respectfully) to start smoking outside. This will keep your interior space smoke-free and give you comfort that your living space is a safe space for your lungs.
When tackling issues of air quality at work, try to avoid dangerous respiratory conditions as much as possible. Wear American Lung Association (ALA) certified masks or avoid the more intensive work altogether.
3. Keep Yourself Immunized
Did you know that the two primary groups that are at risk for developing the flu virus are young children and seniors? The reason why is because, for both of these groups, the immune system is fundamentally weaker.
For many seniors that live free of lung disease, this can be a concern, but particularly for those with chronic lung disease, the insistence on getting a flu shot is incredibly important in the management of your health.
Issues of exacerbations such as excessive fluid build-up often come from the conditions of the disease itself, but when combining the effects of the influenza virus—where your immune system is compromised as it tries to fight off the virus—this can be an incredibly dangerous set of conditions in combination with one another.
As most flu vaccines are free at participating pharmacies, be sure to get yourself vaccinated every flu season in order to ensure better health and better breathing with emphysema.
4. Clean up Your Living Space
Here at the Lung Institute, we are strong advocates for the mastery of space when living with chronic lung disease. In this sense, we believe it’s important to have a home in which exacerbations are reduced, oxygen is plentiful and the air is pure.
We believe your home and living space should be a sanctuary from any outside influences that could exacerbate your disease’s progression.
How do you clean it up?
Start with purifying the air around you. Today, there are a variety of natural products to help remove impure toxins from your environment, from bamboo charcoal which works to remove negative chemicals as well as odors from the air, to Himalayan salt lamps, which will not only produce positive ions that help you sleep, but are beautiful appliances in their own right.
Next, increase the oxygen around you by adding beneficial household plants within your living space. These plants will not only help purify your home of harmful chemicals and toxins but will also produce oxygen as they take in carbon dioxide to give your home an oxygen rich environment.
5. Diet and Exercise
Diet and exercise are the keys to good health for everyone—whether you have lung disease or otherwise. However, for those who live with chronic lung disease and have felt their quality of life gradually decline with time, a proper diet and a good exercise regimen can be the determining factors in raising your energy levels and reducing the frequency of painful exacerbations.
Start with diet:
Increase your protein intake through helpful foods like chicken (eat it grilled or baked), nuts, beans and dairy alternatives such as almond milk or soy.
Eat lots of berries as they contain natural antioxidants which help your body reduce chronic inflammation.
Try tart berries like cranberries, blueberries, and raspberries.
Eat plenty of fish as they are more than just brain food.
The fatty omega-3 and omega-6 acids are beneficial to the body overall (including the lungs)
Even Popeye ate his spinach, so be sure to load up on big leafy greens in order to help improve your energy levels and give your body important vitamins like Vitamin K and A.
Next, address your exercise. Although chronic fatigue and a lack of mobility are common in those with lung disease, it’s important to remember that every step counts and that starting off slow and pushing yourself are key. Give yourself time to adjust to working out consistently first. Once you have a proper routine set, you can increase how strenuous your exercise will become.
Exercise doesn’t have to be intense, so start off with a simple walk to your mailbox. Once that becomes easy, pick a spot down the block and walk to that. When that becomes easy, pick something a bit farther. Before you know it, you’ll be walking with ease. And, that’s progress.