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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a term used to describe a group of progressive lung diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis and refractory asthma.

These conditions can cause shortness of breath, frequent coughing, wheezing and chest pain – making it difficult to exercise or engage in other everyday activities. While they can’t be cured, there are ways you can manage COPD symptoms.

Here are some tips provided by the American Lung Association:

1. Protect your lungs

The first step for managing COPD is to protect your weakened lungs by reducing your exposure to harmful fumes and chemicals. If you are a smoker, it’s important to quit. If you aren’t a smoker, don’t start and always avoid secondhand smoke. This will only worsen your symptoms.

Other pollutants to avoid include pollen, dust and car fumes. If you are exposed to high levels of dust or fumes in the workplace, make sure to take appropriate precautions, such as wearing a mask and keeping your space well ventilated.

You can also check daily air quality levels in your area by visiting

2.  Practice good nutrition

Since COPD symptoms can make it more difficult to exercise, nutrition is extremely important for staying healthy. Also, consuming the right amounts of different nutrients can actually help you breathe better.

Eating well-balanced meals help you take control of your metabolism and build strong respiratory muscles. Your meals should include a balance of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.

Avoid simple carbohydrates (sugar, candy, white pasta and bread, sugared soft drinks). Some COPD patients report that eating more foods with unsaturated fats (avocado, olives, salmon) helps them breathe better.

3. Avoid other illnesses

While the common cold or flu may not seem like a big deal, it can be if you have COPD. That’s why it’s important to protect your health by practicing good hygiene, getting vaccinated and keeping up to date with your annual health visits. You should see a primary care provider at least once a year and visit the dentist every six months to avoid infections.

4. Take care of your mental health

Living with COPD can cause a lot of fear, sadness and anxiety. So don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling and the struggles you are facing with your condition. Also, be sure to stay active and engaged in the things you love to do, whether it’s spending time with family or dedicating time to your favorite hobby.

Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus and in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.

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