Living with chronic pulmonary disease
More than 30 million Americans live with chronic pulmonary conditions such as ASTHMA, CYSTIC FIBROSIS, PULMONARY FIBROSIS, and CHRONIC OBSTRUCTIVE PULMONARY DISEASE (COPD). Though many chronic pulmonary conditions are far more common among people over age 50, chronic pulmonary disease affects young people too. Chronic pulmonary disease requires most people to make accommodations in their lifestyles, recreational activities, and occupations.
People who have chronic pulmonary conditions require ongoing medical surveillance and treatment such that they may feel they “live at the doctor’s office.” They often take numerous medications and receive respiratory therapy treatments. Many undergo frequent hospitalizations for attacks, exacerbations, and INFECTION. Compliance with medical treatments plan is essential but not always easy. It is common to feel that medications are no longer necessary when they bring about significant improvement, yet taking medications as prescribed is the most effective way to prevent complications and, in many situations, slow or halt the condition’s progress.
Various lifestyle factors influence the course of chronic pulmonary conditions. Some are actions a person can and should take to improve his or her pulmonary status. Other actions target overall health and well-being. It is important for each person to take leadership of his or her health and care.
Cigarette smoking is the most significant factor in many forms of chronic pulmonary disease. The optimal lifestyle choice for healthy lungs is never to start smoking; the next best decision is to stop smoking. Though it is not often possible to undo damage that has already occurred to the LUNGS, smoking cessation can result in improvement no matter when it takes place.
BREATHING is such a natural occurrence that few people give it a second thought until it becomes a struggle. BREATHING EXERCISES can increase lung capacity and efficiency, teaching ways to get the most from every breath of air.
Nutritious eating habits
Working hard simply to breathe requires a lot of calories. For people who have severe pulmonary conditions, breathing can commandeer most of the calories consumed each day. It is important to get enough calories to meet the body’s needs and to infuse the body with vital NUTRIENTS that support health and HEALING.
When simply breathing consumes most of the body’s energy, it’s easy to slack off exercise. Yet the body requires regular physical activity to function at its most efficient. Though chronic pulmonary conditions often limit physical exertion, many activities remain possible with adaptation. Walking is among the most effective exercises, providing AEROBIC FITNESS as well as strengthening muscles. Some people find the relative weightlessness of swimming allows them to do more with less effort. Nearly everyone, regardless of disease type or stage, can engage in small activities that improve the body’s fitness. Structured pulmonary rehabilitation programs help people to make the most of the lung function they do have.
Mental health and emotional balance
Coping with the challenges and setbacks of chronic health conditions can be overwhelming. Children who have chronic pulmonary conditions may struggle with peer acceptance and feeling left out of school and social activities. Some people find support groups safe ways to express anger, fear, and worry, as well as to share information and experiences. Other people take comfort in the solitude of prayer or MEDITATION. Stress relief methods such as YOGA and VISUALIZATION help recenter the thoughts and the mind.
Looking to the Future
Though chronic pulmonary conditions are often limiting or debilitating, many people are able to participate in activities they enjoy. With appropriate medical care and self-care, a long and productive life is not only possible but probable for many people who have chronic pulmonary conditions.
See also LIFESTYLE AND HEALTH; QUALITY OF LIFE.