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Lifestyle Changes to Manage Advanced COPD

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Lifestyle Changes to Manage Advanced COPD

4 min read


Advanced COPD is the severe stage of lung disease, where the symptoms get worsened and affect daily activities. Let us discuss the measures to be taken to manage it.

Written by

Dr. Gayathri P

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Published At July 8, 2022
Reviewed AtJuly 6, 2023


Progressive chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) is a severe lung disease, and the patient does not respond well to treatment. Studies show that this develops in patients above 40 years. Specific modifications in the lifestyle during the end stage of COPD can help improve the symptoms and carry out daily activities.

What Is Advanced COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a severe condition that causes breathing difficulty by obstructing the airflow. COPD is classified into different stages based on a lung function test (forced expiratory volume [FEV1] and forced vital capacity [FVC]) that measures the amount of air let out during forced breathing in percentage. The stages of COPD are mild, moderate, severe, and end-stage. The end-stage or advanced COPD severely affects the airflow and causes other systemic complications.

What Causes COPD?

The various factors that irritate or damage the air sacs and lining of the lungs are:

  • Chronic Smoking: smoking cigars, pipes, hookah, etc., for a long time, are the main causative factor of COPD.

  • Irritants: Long-term exposure to chemical fumes, dust, or polluted air can predispose COPD.

  • Certain infections like acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

What Are the Symptoms of Advanced COPD?

  • Severe shortness of breath or dyspnea.

  • Whistling sound during breathing.

  • Chronic cough.

  • Improper sleep.

  • Increased heartbeat.

  • Constipation.

  • Improper eating habits and weight loss.

  • Anxiety and depression.

  • Fatigue and loss of ability to move around.

What Are the Complications of Advanced COPD?

The various risk factors of severe COPD are associated with factors like smoking, increased age, and other systemic disorders are:

  • An increase in the level of blood pressure in the arteries of the lung and heart.

  • Heart disorders.

  • Weakening of the muscles involved in respiration leads to its dysfunction.

  • Weak and brittle bones.

  • Fluid retention in the body leads to edema.

How to Diagnose Advanced COPD?

The various diagnostic methods for the life-threatening disorder are as follows:

  • Lung function tests: Spirometry is a type of lung function (LFT) used widely to diagnose COPD. The patient is instructed to blow into the mouthpiece or tube connected to the spirometer. The spirometer then measures the amount of air inhaled and exhaled. It also measures the amount of air let out during forced breathing.

  • These measurements are expressed in percentage as forced expiratory volume (FEV1). The average level of FEV1 ranges from 80 % to120 %. In end-stage or severe COPD patients, it is less than 30 %.

  • CT scan is taken to determine the extent of damage that occurred on the air-sacs (alveoli) in the lungs, and it will help in deciding the prognosis of the patient to surgery.

  • Six-minute walk test: It is performed by the doctor, wherein the patient is asked to walk on a flat floor, and the time is calculated. Regular patients pass this test, however severe COPD patients find it difficult to walk a few steps.

The Other Test to Diagnose Respiratory Failure Due to COPD Are:

  • Arterial blood gas analysis measures the level of oxygen and carbon dioxide in blood.

  • Pulse-oximetry test measures the amount of oxygen in the blood.

How to Treat Advanced COPD?

Therapeutic Approach:

  • Bronchodilators: Long-acting β2-agonists (LABA) are effective in relieving shortness of breath in patients with advanced COPD. Theophylline, a type of bronchodilator, is suggested in certain patients.

  • Opioids: Low-dose opioids can be given orally or parenterally to relieve breathlessness. But it is mainly contraindicated due to many side effects.

  • Corticosteroids: Inhaled corticosteroids and LABA were also effective in case of flare-ups that occur due to lung infections.

  • Anticholinergics: Long-acting anticholinergics can improve lung function when given with long-acting bronchodilators.

  • Oxygen Therapy: Breathing difficulties in COPD patients can be relieved with long-term oxygen therapy. Oxygen is administered through a nasal cannula, increasing blood oxygen levels in severe hypoxemic conditions.

  • Benzodiazepines: They are used in patients who are anxious and depressed in the end-stage of the disease.

Surgical Approach:

Surgical management is not advised for all patients. It depends on the doctor's treatment plan based on the patient's reports. The various options available in treating advanced COPD patients are:

  • Lung volume reduction surgery: It removes a portion of the lung to improve breathing.

  • Bullectomy removes air spaces formed inside the lung that interferes with breathing.

  • Lung transplantation is also widely done.

What Lifestyle Changes Can Be Made?

Most patients with severe COPD poorly respond to the treatment, and their symptoms may even worsen. Specialized medical care along with lifestyle modifications can increase their quality of life.

  • Avoiding Smoking: Tobacco is the main triggering factor of lung disease. Quitting smoking and bypassing passive smoke controls the symptoms of COPD.

  • Nutrition: In severe COPD, malnourishment usually occurs. Therefore a diet with good nutritious food is necessary to avoid fatigue and other symptoms.

  • Breathing Exercise: Breathing in the fresh air with closed lips and breathing out through whistling action can relieve symptoms.

  • Physical Exercise: Little exercise like walking every day and oxygen supply can positively impact the quality of life.

  • Avoiding Exposure: Staying in a dust-free place, free from harmful chemical fumes and other allergens, can prevent the acceleration of symptoms.

  • Seasonal Alert: Extra care should be taken during the winter season. Wearing a mask and scarf and keeping an inhaler in hand while going out are specific measures to be followed correctly.

  • Positive Mind: Most COPD patients in the advanced stage suffer from severe anxiety and depression. Therefore keeping your mind relaxed by being socialized and changing your lifestyle accordingly can help drastically.

  • Doctor Visit: Periodic visit with your pulmonologist is essential to discuss medications, dietary supplements, and vaccination against pneumonia, flu, etc.

  • Other Therapies: Devices that assist in walking can be used. Electrical stimulation is given to muscles to improve their function. Acupuncture therapy is proven to help in relieving dyspnea in COPD patients. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a treatment that enhances the patient's mental health by identifying and working towards the elimination of factors that disturb the patient's emotional status and calming them.

  • Palliative Care: It is the last provided care to comfort the end-stage COPD patients who have decreased life span. This care supports the patient by delivering therapies that improve their quality of life.


Advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may pose difficulties in carrying out daily activities. Still, various efforts like physical exercise, proper diet, cessation of smoking, and regular doctor's visits help improve the quality of life and lung function. Always a peaceful mind despite a severe illness can play a significant role in the betterment of life.

Frequently Asked Questions


What are the changes in lifestyle for COPD patients?

There will be a drastic change in lifestyle for patients suffering from COPD mainly focusing on the changes in diet. It is advised to eat a healthful diet and avoid coming in very close contact with people who are suffering from respiratory infections. Patients are also advised to avoid going to very high altitude places and avoid heat and cold. Avoiding getting exposed to lung irritants is also recommended.


What lifestyle modifications can be done for acute exacerbation of COPD?

 The main modification that is made is in the diet. The person is asked to shift to a healthy diet so that they can maintain a healthy weight and be active the whole day. Also, smoking is strictly prohibited.


How do you manage advanced COPD?

Advanced COPD can be maintained by following some steps like controlling breathing and talking to the doctor about techniques for breathing more efficiently so that the airways can get cleared. Exercising regularly and eating healthy foods is also a must. Smoking should be strictly prohibited.


Can COPD be managed with medication and lifestyle changes?

Quitting smoking is the best way to keep COPD in control. People can switch to nicotine replacement products and medicines for stopping smoking.


What is the best way to stop COPD from progressing?

For stopping the progression of COPD, it is a  must to stop smoking and stay active throughout the day with mild exercises. One should also attend pulmonary rehabilitation and keep the lungs in action while getting vaccinations in proper time and maintaining a healthy lifestyle with proper medication as recommended by the doctor.


What is the best treatment for severe COPD?

COPD is best treated by using short acting bronchodilator inhalers. Bronchodilator inhalers are medicines that help in breathing in an easy way and widens the airways.


How long can a person live with advanced COPD?

The life expectancy is 5.8 years while female smokers lose almost 9 years of their life in the advanced stage.


What are good activities for COPD?

Some good activities for COPD are walking, biking and swimming. Resistance training is also something that makes the muscles stronger and helps in breathing.


What improves quality of life in COPD?

Quality of life can be improved by learning the techniques of controlling breathing and going to a pulmonary rehab center. One has to be mindful regarding their fatigue and should not undergo over exertion. It is also mandatory to take medications as prescribed by the doctor and eat a healthy and well balanced diet to keep the quality of life improved.


What is the best environment for COPD patients?

Pollution and polluted areas are strictly not for people who suffer from COPD. This is why the better option is to live in cities where the Air quality is good and also maintaining a smoke free home without pollutants can help.


What are two daily tasks that people with COPD struggle with?

The tasks that these patients struggle with are mainly the daily activities. These include getting dressed, having a shower , shopping and cooking.


What is the golden treatment of COPD?

Bronchodilators are the first choice and golden treatment for COPD. This is because they increase the diameter of the airway and decrease the air trapping.


Can you live a long life with severe COPD?

It completely depends on the age, health and symptoms that one is suffering from. If the disease is diagnosed in its early stages, it can be well managed and controlled and the person will live for 10 to 20 years after getting diagnosed.


Can you recover from severe COPD?

It is not totally possible to be cured from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Treating this disease will slow the way it progresses but totally curing it is not possible.


Can you live a long life with stage 4 COPD?

No cure for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease has been found yet, specially in stage 4. Treating it will only control it.
Source Article IclonSourcesSource Article Arrow
Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar
Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Pulmonology (Asthma Doctors)


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