There are a variety of things that patients can do to maintain or improve their quality of life while living with PF. The National Institutes of Health (www.nih.gov) and the Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.org) offer a variety of recommendations for patients, some of which we have referenced in this section.
|Stay in Shape. The most damaging consequence of lung disease and its sensation of breathlessness is the development of an inactive lifestyle. For many patients, activities of daily living, like bathing and dressing, can create overwhelming fatigue. “Air hunger” can create panic attacks, and produce negative psychological effects. People with chronic respiratory problems sometimes limit their physical activities in an attempt to avoid shortness of breath. The lack of exercise works against you; inactivity weakens your muscles and they become less efficient. Deconditioning can make even the simplest daily activities more difficult. Regular exercise strengthens your muscles and makes them more resistant to fatigue. With practice and training you can learn to perform tasks in a more efficient manner. By being more efficient you need less oxygen for the same amount of work. The result is that you may find that you have more energy to accomplish daily tasks and that you are less short of breath. A formal rehabilitation program (pulmonary rehabilitation) is preferred because it allows for observation during exercise and it can be tailored to your specific needs.|
Eat Well. A healthy diet includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It also includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. A healthy diet is low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium (salt), and added sugar. Eating smaller, more frequent meals may prevent stomach fullness that can make it harder to breathe. If you need help with your diet, ask your doctor to arrange for a dietician to work with you. A nutritionally rich diet that contains adequate calories is essential. A dietician can give you further guidelines for healthy eating.
|Get Plenty of Rest. Getting at least eight hours of quality rest every night can boost your immune system and sense of well-being.|
|Stop Tobacco Use. Avoiding environmental irritants,like cigarette smoke, is a good way to prevent further damage to your lungs. If you are still smoking, the most important thing you can do is to stop. Due to the addictive nature of tobacco, this can be difficult. Seek the help of your physician to find a smoking cessation class or other beneficial methods to help you stop smoking. Secondhand smoke can be as harmful to you as if you were smoking yourself. Ask your family and friends to refrain from smoking around you.|
|Learn and Practice Relaxation Techniques. When you are physically and emotionally relaxed, you avoid excessive oxygen consumption caused by tension of overworked muscles. Additionally, learning relaxation techniques can help you manage the panic that often accompanies shortness of breath. Joining a support group and/or seeing a counselor can help you cope with your feelings and the anxiety and depression that are common in people with chronic breathing disorders; these feelings may aggravate the underlining disease. Many fear losing the ability to function and becoming dependent on others. The restriction on activity due to shortness of breath may lead to isolating oneself from family and friends, adding to the depression.|
|Join a Support Group. Just knowing that there is someone out there that knows how you feel is comforting. Share ideas, share fears, and share joys. A detailed listing of local and online support groups can be found at www.pulmonaryfibrosis.org/supportgroups.|
|Participate in Your Health Care. Remember you are part of a health care team that includes your doctors and nurses. They will be asking you a lot of questions.
As a member of that team you have a responsibility to do your part. Be prepared to ask your own questions. Be a participant. Bring someone with you to each appointment and prepare a list of questions to be answered by your physician during your visit.
|Help Others with PF. Consider participating in the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation’s advocacy program. You may gain strength in knowing that you are helping future patients and researchers by advocating for the pulmonary fibrosis community.|
|Keep a Positive Attitude. Actively participating in the management of your disease is greatly enhanced by a positive attitude. A positive attitude can help you and your loved ones cope with your disease.|
This information has been approved by Gregory P. Cosgrove, MD (September 2012)