There are drugs that can temporarily help you breathe, but their effects are temporary, and the side effects can be serious. But if we cannot count on the drug companies, where can we turn?
We can turn to nature and common sense. Sure, I realize that some of you will reject "natural" methodology, but I can tell you from personal experience that it helps, better than anything else out there.
As most people who have COPD know, once diagnosed with mild emphysema, for example, doctors tend to give us less than 15 years, even in the best of conditions (non-smoker etc.). Well, I was diagnosed with emphysema and chronic bronchitis 12 years ago, and I continued smoking 2 packs a day for the next 7 years. I should be as dead as dead gets! But I am far from it.
I can still do physical work, and work out on my Bowflex and other gym equipment daily. I can walk, run and have all the sex my spouse will permit :o) Although I do get winded easily, it is no more so than 12 years ago. And I do not need to walk around while hooked to an oxygen tank!
What is the secret?
All I can tell you is what I personally do, and why I believe it is responsible for my "longevity". So, here goes.
1) I eat a well-rounded diet, not high in carbohydrates. Plenty of protein. I eat normal amounts of red meat, but I insist that all my foods - meat included - is all natural. No hormones, antibiotics or preservatives (other than raw salt). Since Man has canine teeth, that is enough scientific evidence for me to realize we are supposed to eat some meat.
2) My diet is 7/15/28. That's 7 grams of healthy, natural fats (like real butter, cold-pressed olive oil etc.) to every 15 grams of protein, for every 28 grams of carbohydrates. I do NOT eat three big meals a day. Instead, I eat 6 small, BALANCED meals a day. (I make a meal, divide it by two, eat one and save the rest for a snack between). The body can only use just so much fuel at a time. What it cannot use right away will either be put on the waist and hips, or expelled. Also, three big meals, followed by a few hours of fasting in between will only cause your blood sugar to "roller coaster", which can contribute to type 2 diabetes.
3) I take probiotics daily. The American lifestyle and environment reduces the amount of good bacteria that our bodies require in order to protect us. And the prolific use of antibiotics - both as medicine, and that which is fed to food animals - totally eliminate the good flora necessary for health. A good probiotic helps keep our system running smoothly. As a side note, since I began taking probiotic supplements daily, the acid reflux I have had almost constantly for nearly two years simply vanished. I cannot say probiotics "fixed" the reflux problem, but it is gone.
4) I work out, but not "hard". I simply "tone up" with mild exercising twice each day, for at least 30 minutes each set. One set is in my gym. The other set consists of walking for half an hour - not slowly, but at a fairly brisk pace. I prefer walking outside, but in bad weather I use the elliptical machine in my gym.
5) By the way - I did quit smoking, 5 years, 2 months and 13 days ago. Been trying for many years, unsuccessfully. Tried the patches, gum, hypnosis - you name it. Nothing worked. Then one night as I was falling asleep, I prayed for help. The next morning I had no desire for a cigarette, and have not had a single craving ever since. Honest to God, pardon the pun. I'm not saying that my "prayer was answered". I'm only saying I have not smoked anything since.
6) This is, I think, the "crowning touch" of my self-imposed therapy. It's called EWOT, which stands for Exercise With Oxygen Therapy. No, I do not need an oxy tank stuck to my face. But I did considerable research that led me to this. First, I will explain the "what", and then go on to the "why".
I purchased a small, refurbished oxygen generated off the Internet (about $400-$600). Hospitals use them. They are reasonably portable, weighing only a few pounds. When I exercise - MILDLY - I hook the oxy generator to an oxy tube, and place the tube in my nostrils, just like in the hospital. Then I do mild exercise (on the elliptical walker) for 15 minutes while on oxygen. That's all there is to it.
Here is the "why". Science tells us that our atmosphere has nearly 50% less oxygen in it as it did 100 years ago. And 100 years ago, the atmosphere was "naturally perfect" for sustaining human life. Now that there is so much less oxygen in the air we breathe, you might have noticed a dramatic upsurge in people with asthma and COPD. It has more than quintupled since the 1950's.
In short, NO ONE is getting enough oxygen. Not you. Not your kids. No one. And the body requires a certain amount of oxygen in the blood in order to keep us healthy.
For ordinarily "healthy" folks, using EWOT for 15 minutes once per month can make a dramatic difference in overall health - and even mood. But for someone with COPD, it is more useful to use EWOT 1-3 times per week.
When oxygen is introduced without mild exercise, it simply goes into the lungs, and into the blood, gets used quickly, then is gone. But when you introduce mild exercise for 15 minutes while on oxygen, the oxygen gets "pushed" out of the blood and into the cells, themselves. This reduces the creation of lactate (which "tires" muscles), and, since cancer cells cannot live in an oxygen-rich environment, it could conceivably aid in fighting or preventing cancer, although that has not been established.
But most important, EWOT infuses oxygen into the cells of the lungs, which may make them stronger. Again, the jury is still out, but I can state unequivically that EWOT has made a big, positive difference in my life. If nothing else, the reduction of lactate while exercising means I can exercise longer - and that is a good thing!
So, folks - take it for what it's worth to you. But I figure I have at least another 15 years left (I'm 60 now). And that is more than a 45-year smoker has any right to expect, especially when you realize I have already had emphysema for over 12 years!