IPF is a highly complex condition. The disease needs to be managed along with its symptoms. It is essential that you manage some parts of the condition yourself. This allows you to:
- control your care;
- set realistic goals; and
- prepare for your future.
You need to work closely with your care team to take an active and positive role in your care pathway and outcomes. Your doctor can best advise you on how to deal with the challenges associated with your condition, but here are a few suggestions for lifestyle changes you can make to improve your quality of life:
If you give up smoking, or avoid exposure to second-hand smoke, you can:
- increase oxygen levels in your blood;
- lower your blood pressure and heart rate; and
- reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease.
Doing these things can help you prevent further damage to your lungs.
If you take regular, moderate exercise, it not only helps you maintain a healthy weight, but also strengthens your muscles and keeps your body working efficiently. This will help you to manage shortness of breath.
It can help you stay as healthy as possible if you eat a balanced, nutritious diet including:
- whole grains;
- lean meats; and
- low-fat dairy products.
Your diet should be low in:
- saturated fats;
- sodium (salt); and
- added sugar.
Get plenty of rest
Sleep is essential for boosting your immune system and improving your overall sense of well-being.
Stay up-to-date with vaccinations
It is especially important that you stay up to date with flu and pneumonia vaccines. You should also avoid exposure to infections – these can make IPF worse.
If you are physically and emotionally relaxed it may help you to avoid excessive oxygen consumption. Relaxation techniques can help and they can also teach you to manage the panic that can go with shortness of breath.
Join a patient group
It is important to become actively involved and to be proactive in managing the challenges of living with IPF. It can help you cope with your disease if you:
- get together with other people with IPF;
- create a sense of community;
- share experiences; and
- feel understood.
Involve your family and caregivers
It might be difficult to talk about the disease with your family and friends, but talking can help you to overcome your fears and difficulties. Keep them close to you, involve them and keep them informed about your disease. This can help you to cope with your IPF diagnosis and feel less alone.
Relaxation and mindfulness
There are different relaxation techniques that can help you to handle the emotional and psychological challenges that may come with the IPF diagnosis. Mindfulness can help you to:
- focus on what is most important in your life;
- find motivation;
- be positive while coping with the physical and lifestyle challenges of living with IPF; and
- calm down when you are distressed, discouraged, scared or in pain.
Yoga is beneficial for IPF patients as it can stimulate your lungs through focused breathing. It also helps workout your diaphragm (the muscle that operates the lung). Basic breathing exercises may improve lung function and ease breathing problems.