The human body relies on an ongoing supply of oxygen on a moment-by-moment basis. This makes respiration one of the most essential processes in the body. The lung scarring that occurs with pulmonary fibrosis (PF) interferes with the lungs’ ability to supply the body with the oxygen it needs. Over time, the effects of PF weaken the body’s systems as a whole, making it difficult to carry out everyday tasks and activities.
Not surprisingly, you can expect to experience some lifestyle changes as the effects of PF become more pronounced. If you’ve just recently received a pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis or have been living with it for a while now, the best first step you can take is to learn all you can about this condition. The more you know about PF, the better prepared you’ll be to cope with it and manage it. For now, here are a few lifestyle changes you can expect with a pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis, along with some steps you can take to support your health.
Lifestyle Changes to Expect with a Pulmonary Fibrosis Diagnosis
Reduced Physical Activity
With PF, the lungs lose their ability to deliver the needed supply of oxygen to the body. This has a profound effect on your energy levels. Tasks that you used to do easily, such as walking up the stairs, getting dressed and cleaning the house will be difficult to the point where frequent rest periods are needed. In effect, tasks that used to take five minutes to do will take three, four or five times longer.
Not being able to carry out daily tasks as you did before receiving a pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis may well bring on feelings of depression and anxiety. PF side effects, such as shortness of breath and fatigue, can also cause you to feel depressed and anxious. Also, these physical effects interfere with the brain’s neurotransmitter systems, which directly impact your mood states.
A 2017 research study appearing in the Journal of PLoS One set out to determine how prevalent conditions like depression and anxiety are in people with pulmonary fibrosis. From a sample of 121 participants, researchers used the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale to gauge rates of emotional distress. Results from the study show feelings of depression and anxiety to be common in people with PF. Since ongoing emotional strain can take a considerable toll on your quality of life, it’s important to take steps to support your overall health and well-being.
Effects on Career
The effects of pulmonary fibrosis not only sap your energy levels but also your ability to get a good night’s sleep and your overall ability to think and concentrate. Recurring bouts of shortness of breath are also an ongoing issue. These combined effects can make it extremely difficult to function effectively in the workplace. Since maintaining employment is a must for many people with PF, it’s all the more important to do what you can, to support your lung health.
Impact on Social Life
Not being able to be as active as you once were can impact your social life in negative ways, especially if you’re the type of person who’s always on the move. Activities like playing with your kids or grandkids, bike riding or even walking will take considerably more effort than before. Also, many effects of PF, such as fatigue, are “invisible” to friends and family. This invisibility can make it difficult for loved ones to understand what you’re experiencing so it’s important to help friends and family understand how PF works.
Things You Can Do to Support Your Health
While lifestyle changes may well be in order, there are some things you can do to support your health and maintain a good quality of living. A few things to consider implementing include:
- Pulmonary rehabilitation
- Stress management practices
- Joining a support group for PF
Pulmonary rehabilitation programs offer a wide range of interventions to help you manage your physical and emotional health. Interventions offered include lung exercise training, developing an exercise regimen and supportive counseling. In fact, doctors recommend pulmonary rehabilitation for most anyone who receives a pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis. Stress management may also be part of a pulmonary rehabilitation program. These practices teach relaxation techniques that can help you reduce feelings of anxiety that may occur when you feel short of breath.
Mindfulness training, an often-used stress management practice, works well as a treatment intervention for PF patients. A 2015 research study published in the Journal of BMJ Open Respiratory Researchers examined the effects of mindfulness training on stress levels for people with PF. The study included 19 participants and took place over an eight-week period. Data was then gathered 12 months later. Results from the study showed noticeable decreases in stress levels among the participants, along with improvements in overall mood states.
Last but not least, joining a support group puts you in touch with other people who are living with pulmonary fibrosis. Support groups make it possible to connect with people who understand what you’re going through. These groups can also provide a wealth of information and tips on how to cope with a pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis on a day-to-day basis.
All in all, PF will require you to make certain lifestyle changes, but there are still things you can do to “live well.”