Understanding COPD: A Breath of Fresh Air

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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) refers to a group of diseases that cause the lungs to lose their elasticity, making it more difficult to breathe. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the two main conditions of COPD, followed by asthma.

Signs and Symptoms

Some signs and symptoms of COPD include:

  • frequent coughing with mucus
  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing
  • chest tightness

Two Main Types of COPD

Chronic Bronchitis: Constant coughing that produces mucus due to inflammation in the lungs.

Emphysema: A condition that causes breathlessness due to inflammation and damage in the lungs. Malnutrition and weight loss are more common in patients with emphysema than in those with chronic bronchitis.

Facts about COPD

  • 4th leading cause of death in the United States.
  • Cigarette smoking is the most common cause.
  • Diagnosed by a doctor.
  • You can prevent and treat COPD!

Prevention and Treatment

There are many treatment options available for those with COPD based on your medical condition and severity of the disease. The leading cause of COPD is smoking. Smoking irritates and damages the lungs, making your lungs work harder to get the air they need. Therefore, avoiding tobacco use is the best way to prevent or treat COPD.

Living with COPD

Breathing requires more energy for people COPD. The muscles used in breathing
might need ten times more calories than someone without COPD. If you are overweight,
your heart and lungs have to work harder to get more oxygen, making breathing more
difficult. Losing weight may help lighten your heart and lungs’ workload. However, being
underweight might make you feel weak and tired, and might make you more likely to get
an infection. It is important to get enough nutrients and protein to prevent weakening your lung muscles. Good nutrition helps keep the body strong and fight infections.

Adding Calories to Your Diet (If you are underweight)


  • Add butter or margarine to hot soups, vegetables, cooked cereals, and bread.
  • Top potatoes with gravy, sour cream or yogurt.
  • Spread jelly or honey on buttered toast.
  • Snack on trail mix, nuts, dried fruit, cheese and crackers, and granola.
  • Add cream to your coffee.
  • Drink milk or breakfast shakes.

Adding Protein to Your Diet


  • Add diced or ground meat to soups and casseroles
  • Add milk powder to hot or cold cereals, soups, gravies, puddings, scrambled eggs, and baked goods.
  • Mix protein powder into casseroles, sauces, gravies, soups, and milkshakes.
  • Spread peanut butter on crackers or fruits and vegetables, like apples, bananas, and celery.
  • Eat dried nuts–they’re packed with protein!



Tips to Help Manage COPD

  • Eat healthy foods: A healthy diet of can help you maintain your strength. Citrus fruits, whole grains, and nuts are rich in nutrients and antioxidants.
  • Clear your airways: Control coughing by drinking plenty of water to clear air passages of mucus.
  • Avoid smoke: Besides quitting, avoid places where others smoke. Secondhand smoke can contribute to further lung damage.
  • Limit your salt: Eating too much salt may retain water in your body, making it hard to breathe. Use herbs and spices to season your food instead of salt.
  • Eat small, frequent meals and snacks: This will help improve appetite and lessen fatigue.
  • See your doctor regularly: It’s important to monitor your health and lung function.


Information from: NIH: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Copd/Copd_WhatIs.html, Cleveland Clinic: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/chronic_obstructive_pulmonary_disease_copd/hic_nutritional_guidelines_for_people_with_copd.aspx, Escott-Stump, Sylvia (2008). Nutrition and Diagnosis-Related Care. 6th ed. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. p278-281. Nutrition education for December 2011. Produced by Meals On Wheels, Inc. of Tarrant County by Angeline Vanto, nutrition intern for Sherry Simon, R.D./L.D. For questions regarding nutrition education contact: Sherry Simon, R.D./L.D., Director of Nutrition Services for Meals On Wheels, Inc. of Tarrant County at (817) 336-0912 or email: ssimon@mealsonwheels.org. Website: www.MealsOnWheels.org. 

Posted in Nutritional Education.

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