Have you–or someone you care about–been diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)? While it’s an alarming diagnosis, experts at Dignity Health Yavapai RegionalMedical Center (YRMC) recommend educating yourself early on about how to manage COPD and prevent flare ups. Let’s begin with the basics about the condition.

What is COPD?

COPD is a general term for a group of lung conditions, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. These conditions cause airflow from the lungs to become increasingly blocked over time. Symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing or a chronic cough.

The American Lung Association estimates that 16.4 million people in the U.S. are living with COPD. Between 85to 90% of those cases are caused by smoking. However, nonsmokers can get COPD as well. Long-term exposure to secondhand smoke, air pollution, and fumes from certain chemicals can also play a role.

Here are some tips for people newly diagnosed with COPD or any lung condition from the team at YRMC.

Partner with your provider

Your healthcare provider may recommend a COPD treatment plan that includes medication, oxygen therapy or a pulmonary rehabilitation program.Be sure to ask questions to ensure you understand your care plan. And don’t hesitate to ask your provider or pharmacist if any questions arise about your medication.

Quit smoking

If you currently smoke or vape, quit. For someone with COPD, giving up smoking will make a huge difference.But, as former smokers will tell you, breaking the habit is easier said than done.How do you get help quitting? The Arizona ASHLine sponsors a customized program called Quit Coaching. You’ll find information at AZDHS.org/ashline or by calling 1-800-556-6222.

Get some exercise

Quitting smoking and exercising go hand in hand. Smoking cessation experts recommend replacing cigarettes with light hand weights, exercise bands or squeezy balls. The idea is to exchange a negative reaction (the urge to smoke) with a positive result (exercise).

In addition to taking your mind off of those negative feelings, exercise will also help your body through withdrawal symptoms. It’s a well-known fact that exercise generate endorphins–feel-good chemicals–in our brains.

For those who have COPD, regular exercise can also strengthen the lungs and improve circulation, which may increase the flow of oxygen throughout the body and reduce symptoms.

Bundle up this winter

Cold air is drying and irritating to the airways. Wear protective gear–a loose scarf over your nose and mouth–when the temperature dips and breathe through your nose. This will help warm the air before it enters the lungs, which can keep COPD symptoms from flaring up.

Find support

Emotional support can be an integral part of staying on top of COPD. It’s important to know how to recognize and handle any feelings of anxiety, stress or depression that may arise. Talk to your healthcare team about counselors or support groups that may be available to you.

A healthy and happy life is possible with COPD. Experts recommend that you keep the dialogue going with your healthcare providers, stay active and seek out the support you need.

For more information, visit DignityHealth.org/YRMC.