Living with Emphysema: Tips for Patients
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Living with Emphysema: Tips for Patients

Emphysema can be a debilitating disease, causing complications and discomfort as it progresses over time. This article talks about what you can do, as someone diagnosed with emphysema, to better adjust to living with the condition - from eating a healthier diet to making sure your home is the safest place it can be.

Emphysema is classified as a COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and brings with it many challenges both physically and mentally. It is a slow disease that targets the destruction of lung tissue and is one of the most common breathing afflictions in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) it is estimated that approximately four million people are diagnosed with emphysema per year (most over forty-five years old). There are several things you can do while living with emphysema to maintain a better quality of life. NOTE: Be sure and always check with your doctor before implementing any changes regarding your emphysema.

Think Safety

Emphysema can create many challenges that require a safe environment. Therefore it is important to take the time to re-adjust your home.

  • Clear pathways and install safety bars to assist walking and bathroom activity.
  • Remove throw rugs that can harbor breathing challenged allergens.
  • Make sure all areas are well lit.
  • Use a raised toilet seat.
  • Keep emergency phone numbers on hand or wear a portable emergency notification device.
  • Make sure shoe wear is non-skid in and out of the home.


Smoking is the leading cause of emphysema and if you are diagnosed with this disease you should never smoke or be around smoke. By avoiding any kind of smoke you will be able to add to slowing the progression of your emphysema.

Physical Activity

Remaining active can strengthen your system and decrease emphysema symptoms. Whether it is a daily walk, run, bike ride or trip to the gym, exercise will improve your breathing muscles as well as other muscle groups allowing you to use less energy for daily activities. Physical activity will also improve your mood, allow you to use oxygen more efficiently, help maintain healthy weight and improve sleep. Always check with your doctor regarding your recommended ability as well as medication protocol when considering an exercise program.


Eating processed, sugar and fat laden foods can result in weight gain, mental fog, digestion challenges and more. These, in turn, can put an unnecessary strain on your already difficult struggle with emphysema. Be sure and maintain a healthy eating program which includes mind and body boosting foods such as live dark green leafy vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. If you eat less because of your emphysema try small meals or liquid-meal supplements. Make sure to consult your physician for a recommended dietary plan as well as any possible food or supplement contraindications with any medications you are taking.

Be Aware of Triggers

Understanding how your body reacts to certain conditions will help you avoid breathing difficulty. Determine if hot, humid or cold, brisk weather are triggers. Avoid dust as well as any direct exhaust from a vehicle or machine.

There are many healthy and vigilant changes you can implement while living with emphysema. Try some of the above as well as any other recommendations from your healthcare practitioner.

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