In our previous blog, we introduced a fictitious but typical patient who was coping with a new COPD diagnosis.
We named her “Lucy.” She shared reactions to several major rules, which most COPD patients find beneficial in coping with their COPD. We call them The FLASS Ten Commandments for Coping With COPD.
Perhaps naming them rules or Commandments seems inflexible or harsh. Perhaps you might prefer calling them tips or lifestyle choices, but the Florida Lung, Asthma and Sleep Specialists believe they are more than that.
Coping Means Commanding Your COPD
Following the Ten FLASS COPD Commandments can put a patient in command of their COPD. Hence we call them Commandments.
Patients who follow these Commandments can more than manage their disease. They can command it by coping with it longer and attaining a higher quality of life.
At this point in this blog, we suggest you read or review the previous blog which introduced the first six of the Commandments. Because of those rules we saw Lucy give up smoking and follow her treatment plan of medication and exercise, among other things.
In this week’s blog, as we promised, we bring you the last four of these ten helpful and empowering rules for coping with COPD.
7. Thou shalt maintain a Healthy Plan of Nutrition and Diet.
Lucy, our case-study patient, was always considered “pleasantly plump” or “curvy,” resulting in occasional dieting. Slightly before her diagnosis, Lucy noticed she had lost eleven pounds in about three weeks–without even trying!
Coping With COPD and the Weight Loss/ Weight Gain Conundrum
Before she understood the significance of the weight loss, Lucy was at first pleased. You see, Lucy did not realize that what she was experiencing was a muscle mass loss, not a fat loss.
a. Muscle mass loss was affecting her overall health, due the wasting power of the disease of COPD. She knew she felt highly fatigued and coughed a lot. She did not realize the unplanned weight loss fit in the category of a “symptom.” She did not realize COPD is a chronic, wasting disease.
b. After her diagnosis, her dietician, one of her treatment team members, made her aware of an important fact of life. She could look plump, but be undernourished.
c. Likewise, she learned, it is essential that the COPD patient not be undernourished. Such a patient should follow a healthy and well balanced diet in case of exacerbations, infections and hospitalizations.
d. You might have heard about COPD and the Obesity Paradox. To put it simply, it seems like an overweight patient can cope with COPD longer, when the disease is in its final stages. Experts at the Mayo Clinic write, “Underweight individuals with COPD may not live as long as those who are overweight or obese.
This is called the “obesity paradox” and suggests an association between obesity and better outcomes for those with COPD.”
In spite of numerous studies, researchers really do not understand the reason for this unique effect; that’s why it is a paradox.
According to the International Journal of Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, “Obesity has been associated with decreased lung-function measures in population-based studies, with increased prevalence of several lung diseases and with compromised pulmonary function. In contrast, obesity has a protective effect against mortality in severe chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.” (COPD)
Thus, there are two categories of body types you might see coping with COPD: On the one side of the scale, you might see emaciated figures who appear to be wasting away. At the other end of the scale, you might see hearty-looking or obese individuals with severe COPD.
Coping With Commandment Number 7!
Lucy and her dietitian will work together to keep her weight in a healthy balance, neither losing nor gaining too much — and especially not losing muscle mass.
This type of nutrition is a very personalized regime, and it differs with the needs of various patients with COPD. Some of them must lose some weight, due to other cardiovascular issues in addition to their COPD.
Other patients strive to gain weight. To see a general description of a dietary guideline for patients with COPD, please consult this linked page from the American Lung Association. Remember, your dietitian will adjust these guidelines.
For Lucy, who had always loved sweets, colas and cakes, eating a healthy diet was almost as difficult as giving up her silver cigarette case. She actually ranks following her healthy eating requirements as her most challenging commandment.
8. Thou shalt become aware of germs and illness around you.
Coping with COPD means you must be aware and avoid infection. Lucy said, “Coping with my COPD means that what might simply make friends ill for a week or two—like the flu—could take me out, permanently. My friends and family know they must tell me if they are feeling sick. And I know I must stay away.” She quips, “That’s why I have a Smart phone. With my COPD, I am smart enough to visit from a distance!”
Other healthy habits like hand-washing are very important to the COPD Patient, who must be constantly aware of infection.
9. Thou shalt take a good night’s sleep, every night!
Nights can be challenging for any COPD patient. Lucy’s doctor has prescribed supplemental oxygen on an “as needed” basis. She has discovered that she often likes to use it for a little while in the evening before she goes to sleep.
If you are a COPD patient, FLASS advises you to check with your doctor before using it all night. She has also elevated the head of her bed with blocks under the headboard legs of her bed-frame. She grins, “Well, I know I need to keep my head elevated, and I kept sliding off my pillows!”
10. Thou shalt not be depressed; thou shalt bust through the blues!
If you ever lost your breath while swimming or choked very hard while eating, you know how terrifying it can be to feel your air has been shut off.
Facing Your Fear In Spite of COPD
That is the fear that Lucy and others like her face every single hour of every single day with COPD. It is no wonder that depression and anxiety can run rampant over the COPD patient’s emotional life.
Lucy and other patients like her have learned to deal with periods of the “blues,” and conquer depression.
Talking to your FLASS doctor and other members of your healthcare team is very therapeutic. Talking with friends and family about feelings of fear and hopelessness can also help.
Defeat Depression With Distraction And Taking Action!
Likewise, your hobby, exercise routine, favorite books, meditations and prayers can improve your mood. You can even reach out to a national help-line by phone at the C.O.P.D. Information Line at 1-866-316-COPD (2673).
Lucy tells us it helps her to remember everything she can still do instead of regretting the activities she has lost. She thinks it’s important to remember that COPD does not rule her life. With the FLASS Ten Commandments for COPD, she commands it. She often quotes an old saying, “Life is not measured by the breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away!”