Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may affect up to 24 million people, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. COPD is characterized by lung damage that makes breathing extremely difficult. Simple tasks like climbing the stairs or even walking can become impossible feats when you cannot breathe. Nonetheless, many people with COPD lead fulfilling lives every day. Through a combination of professional health care and ongoing healthy habits, you can combat your cough. Here are five ways to fight against COPD:

Stop smoking
The first step in any COPD treatment is to quit smoking, which is the leading cause for COPD, and continuing to do so will only damage your lungs further and make the disease worse. While quitting smoking can feel impossible, you do not have to do it alone. The National Cancer Institute and the American Lung Association provide important information, comprehensive programs and additional resources to help you start living smoke-free.

Identify your triggers
Airborne irritants like perfume, smoke, smog or dust can exacerbate your lung troubles. Even cold weather conditions or strong emotional reactions can affect your breathing. Pay close attention to COPD flare-ups, including brief episodes of severe coughing and wheezing. Write down the conditions surrounding the attack — where you were and what you were doing. Over time, you might notice particular situations that make your COPD worse. Once you have determined the triggers that aggravate your lungs, you can figure out ways to avoid them and minimize the number of unpleasant flare-ups.

Follow doctor’s orders
A good doctor will recommend a treatment regimen tailored specifically to your needs. Prescription medications can effectively alleviate your symptoms like pain and wheezing. It is important to remember that drugs are most effective when you take them regularly and as directed. Your doctor may also recommend a number of lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet and exercise, which can help improve your quality of life. Working closely with your doctor means you have the medical expertise and support necessary to cope with COPD.

Avoid other respiratory illnesses
Catching the flu when you have COPD is a significantly worse, real-life version of rubbing salt into the wound. A sickness in your respiratory system places a great strain on your lungs, which are already weakened by the COPD. You can ward off the seasonal flu by getting vaccinated in time before flu season. Avoid cold and cough germs by washing your hands frequently and steering clear of dense crowds.

Slow down but keep moving
When you live with COPD, many activities can leave you feeling breathless in a bad way. Performing activities more slowly and thoughtfully means you can keep doing many of the things you love without hurting yourself. Eating slowly will help you savor your food and save you from possible shortness of breath. Enjoy a daily walk, which can provide you both entertainment and exercise. A number of specially designed exercises fortify your breathing your muscles and help your body stay strong.