Understanding COPD: The Basics

COPD is short for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Close to 16 million adult Americans have COPD, with many more undiagnosed. A base explanation of COPD is a constant obstruction of the lungs. This reduced airflow makes breathing difficult and worsens over time. COPD can manifest in a few ways, mainly through emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

center for family medicine Treatment For COPD In Seniors Lifestyle Changes Medications

What are the causes of COPD?

The lungs are made up of a network of airways. At the ends of these airways are sacs that fill with oxygen like balloons. COPD causes inflammation of the airways reducing the amount of air that passes through. In some cases, the walls of the airways and sacs are destroyed.

Seniors face the highest risk

Based on statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 43% of persons with COPD are over 65. Seniors must be aware of the signs and seek medical attention. If a doctor confirms COPD, a range of treatment options is available. There are even some lifestyle changes capable of making a huge impact.

Give up smoking for good

About 90% of COPD sufferers are smokers or used to smoke. Quitting smoking is the best lifestyle attack against COPD. While there may be irreparable damage, the lungs will slowly begin to take in more oxygen. Not only will seniors breathe better, but medication may have a more significant impact.

Remove other lung irritants

The remaining 25% may have been exposed to toxins, dust, secondhand smoke, or dangerous environments. Health takes priority. Complete an assessment of work and home for pollutants that may have caused the disease.

Get a flu vaccine

Common viruses like the flu, common cold, or pneumonia do not cause COPD. However, these viruses make COPD worse and can be life-threatening. Getting a flu vaccination reduces the chances of catching the seasonal flu. The vaccine also doubles as a preventative measure for a COPD flare-up.

Diet and exercise may help

Diet seems to be a remedy for many diseases, and COPD is no exception. The right foods help with excess weight, which increases the symptoms of the disease. Exercise may also train the body to absorb more oxygen, increase endurance, and use oxygen efficiently. There’s a catch-22 involved as shortness of breath restricts the ability to exercise. Speak with a doctor to come up with a safe exercise plan.

Anti-inflammatory and other medications

Over the years, scientists and doctors have created drugs to relieve symptoms. Conventional medication includes steroids and inhibitors. Each drug has long-term side effects. Make sure to address these side effects with a healthcare provider.

Invest in bronchodilators and other inhalers

Bronchodilators and inhalers are small devices that can be used to pump medication into the airways. The bronchodilator contains specific drugs that relax the airways. Other inhalers contain steroids that reduce inflammation, discomfort, and difficulty breathing. The doctor can recommend the right inhaler and dosage.


Doctors have used hyperbaric oxygen therapy or HBOT to treat many issues, including COPD. With HBOT, the patient lies in an oxygen chamber or room for a short time. The place provides pure oxygen under atmospheric conditions. These conditions stimulate plasma and help the body repair faster. More and more persons are turning to HBOT as a form of medication for COPD.

Just breathe

Speaking of breathing, persons with COPD can benefit from proper technique and breathing exercises. Proper breathing increases oxygen capacity and improves efficiency. This gives COPD patients relief when practiced over time.

It’s time to fight back

The CDC estimates that 43 out of 100,000 persons die yearly from COPD, which equates to about 150,000 Americans. Seniors are particularly at risk of severe complications and death. To stay ahead of the curve, seniors must start with lifestyle changes. By quitting smoking, dietary changes, and exercising, seniors have a fighting chance. Adding the right doctor-prescribed medication at the right time also helps. Speak with a doctor about signs of COPD today.