Breathe Easier with Lifestyle Changes Following a COPD Diagnosis

A male home health nurse listens to an older woman’s lungs following a COPD diagnosis.
Making lifestyle changes after a COPD diagnosis is crucial to breathing easier.

Coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing. For someone with COPD, these symptoms are an everyday part of life, making it difficult to perform activities that were once so simple.

Yet a COPD diagnosis doesn’t have to equal loss of independence or giving up enjoyable activities. Thankfully, several simple lifestyle changes can maximize lung function and allow you to breathe a sigh of relief.

What Lifestyle Changes Are Important With COPD?


As the saying goes, we are what we eat, and following a healthy diet is one of the most important steps to take following a COPD diagnosis. Anti-inflammatory foods and those high in antioxidants can improve lung function and will also help protect against lung infections. Speak with the doctor for specific recommendations, but in general, include the following:

  • Complex carbs, especially whole grains
  • Lean poultry, fish, eggs, soy, and milk
  • Beans, peas, and lentils
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables

Physical Activity

Exercise is also vitally important to build and strengthen muscles and improve breathing. It’s easy to settle into a more sedentary lifestyle with COPD, due to fatigue and shortness of breath. However, this will actually exacerbate symptoms. Ask the doctor for exercise recommendations, and be sure to include breathing exercises, which help the lungs take in more oxygen. Examples of breathing exercises include:

  • Diaphragmatic breathing: Lying flat on the bed or floor, bend the knees and breathe in deeply through the nose to a count of three. Tighten the abdominal muscles and then breathe out to a count of six through the mouth with slightly pursed lips. Continue for five to ten minutes if possible.
  • Pursed lip breathing: Sit comfortably in a chair and breathe in normally through the nose. Breathe out slowly through pursed lips (as though you are about to whistle) to a count of four. Continue for about a minute if possible.
  • Controlled coughs: Using the diaphragmatic breathing method above, breathe in deeply and hold for three seconds. Place one hand beneath the ribs on the abdomen and press in and upward lightly while coughing twice to clear mucous.

Air Quality

Naturally, someone with COPD should quit (or never start) smoking. It’s also important to avoid other airborne pollutants, such as perfume, hair spray, harsh cleaning products, etc. An air purifier can be helpful, and you’ll also want to ensure that air filters in the home are changed regularly.

Illness Prevention

Colds and other viral or bacterial illnesses can lead to lung infections, which are especially dangerous for someone with COPD. You can reduce the risk of illness by:

  • Staying up to date on vaccinations for pneumonia, influenza, COVID-19, RSV, and pertussis
  • Washing hands often with soap and water
  • Avoiding those who are sick
  • Staying hydrated
  • Getting sufficient sleep (ideally 7 – 8 hours per night)

Home Health Care Can Help!

At Patients First Home Care, we offer a full range of skilled nursing and home health care services to help ensure optimal health for someone with COPD. Reach out to us with any questions or to learn more about our home health care services in Sarasota, Naples, Bradenton, Sebring, and throughout southwest Florida.